Skip to main content

Full text of "Our wildlife and its wise use"

See other formats




WIN DONAT. Ass't. Chief 
Education Division 




Other cooperating agency publications: 

1. "Public Welfare in North Carolina," N. C. State Board of 
Public Welfare. 

2. "Our Surface Waters and Their Problems," N. C. Depart- 
ment of Conservation & Development, Water Resources 

3. "Conservation of Soil and Water," U. S. Soil Conservation 


W. Kerr Scott 

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission 
Frank T. Erwin, Chairman 

D. K. Sing, Vice-chairman J. W. Moore 

G. E. Beal, Secretary Earnest McGougan 

R. Floyd Grouse Robert Sadler 

Geo. W. Keesee O. L. Woodhouse 

Clyde P. Patton, Executive Director 


These bulletins are sponsored by the North Carolina Resource-Use 
Education Commission and various agencies of the state. The Commission, 
composed of representatives from fifty state and federal agencies, was 
organized in 1945 for the purpose of further channeling resource-use 
education into the schools and communities. It is hoped that the bulletins 
will furnish teachers and other leaders information as to the human, 
social and natural resources of North Carolina, and that they will point 
out the problems of resource development and conservation. Some prac- 
tical suggestions toward solving these problems will be included. 

Bulletins on welfare and on wildlife have been published. Individual 
bulletins may be prepared on health, recreation, industry, agriculture, soil 
conservation, forestry, water, and minerals. Others will be added as the 
need arises. 

Scientific information is needed to develop the resources in North 
Carolina, but only if our human resources are wisely used can our state 
greatly increase the present output of goods and services so urgently 
needed by her citizens. These citizens are a vast reservoir of spiritual, 
intellectual and physical energy not being used fully at the present. Too 
few people have the vision, knowledge and skill necessary to enjoy the 
wealth of resources now lying unused and wasted within their reach. 

We are just beginning to learn of the natural riches of our state. Once 
known, this will mean a more stable economy with better agriculture, 
new industries, more opportunities, and more effective public services 
for all. 

Trained scientific technicians daily uncover more of nature's materials 
and forces which, when released, will increase the productive powers of 
the land, minerals forests, waters, and wildlife. This will be possible if 
the waiting natural wealth, the growing knowledge of scientists, is joined 
by the understanding, faith, efforts, and knowledge of the people for a 
richer, happier, society. Only a new spiritual and scientific awakening 
of the people through a continuous educational crusade, can achieve this. 

North Carolina's future lies in the full development of her natural, 
human, and social resources. We can start in our classrooms and com- 
munities to improve the living conditions by the fullest use of all three 
types of resources. To do this, three major factors of the community must 
be considered. These set the standards, or the living level, of the respective 

First is the physical environment, or the natural resources. These are 
the sun, land, minerals, water, plant and animal life. They provide the 
bases for the food grown, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the 
metals and fuels mined from which our many machines and gadgets are 
fashioned, as well as many of our recreational opportunities. 

Second, there is man, or the human resource. 

The third factor is created by man's desires, wants, work, play, and 
his association with the people of the community — the social resources. 
Man draws upon his natural and social resources to give him the goods 


and services he wants and needs. The knowledge, skill and customs of 
the people set the direction and quality of individual and group effort 
towards satisfying these wants. 

The social resources are made up of groups like the family, and educa- 
tional, economic, governmental and religious organizations. They include 
many less formal public and private groups such as the Parent-Teacher 
Associations, cooperatives, and civic clubs. Organizations spring from the 
customs and laws of people, and provide the social forces operating in the 

The forces of nature and the forces of our social life, give man two 
systems of power. Man, to make the fullest use of either of these two 
powers, must understand the scientific principles governing their operation. 
Man's ignorance, or lack of energy, can keep his community from reach- 
ing its capacity in the production of both material goods and in mature 
and active citizens. The human, natural and social resources must be 
woven together in order to realize the fulfillment of the community's 
development. Each community must be stimulated and guided to fill the 
needs of its people. It is the task of teachers and leaders to make urgent 
these needs and wants to the people so that all persons will work for them. 

There is, then, urgent need that the people of North Carolina under- 
stand the principles of wise resource use; that they apply their understand- 
ing and skill to achieve better living in the community, state and nation. 
This is a great challenge to our schools for they carry the largest burden 
in educating youth and adults in the wise use of resources. These bulletins 
should aid considerably in building sound school programs which meet the 
challenge of our times. 



Clyde A. Erwin, Chairman 

Ellen Black Winston, Vice-chairman 

Gordon W. Blackwell, Executive Secretary 


Margaret B. Barrow Robert Shaw 

Win Donat, Chairman Jasper Stuckey 

Earl Garrett Madeline Tripp 

Paul Kelly David S. Weaver 

Homer A. Lassiter Richard L. Weaver 

W. H. Riley 





Grateful acknowledgement is given to all personnel of 
the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, who, 
by their constructive criticism and suggestions, helped to 
improve the quality of this booklet; and to Dr. A. B. R. 
Shelley, English Department, North Carolina State Col- 
lege, who read the manuscript. Especial appreciation is 
given to the Missouri Conservation Commission for 
unqualified permission to use the factual information 
contained in their excellent series of bulletins entitled 
"Conservation Teachers Manual". 







A. The two main factors from which our resources are derived— 9 

B. The principal North Carolina activities based on these 
factors 9, 10 

C. The importance of balance and how it affects some 

natural resources 11 

D. Use of the forest illustration to show how the misuse of 

one resource affects the others 11-13 

E. The importance of the wildlife problems to North Carolina 13 

F. The Wildlife Resources Commission's program 14 



A. Improvement of habitat 15 

B. Control of predators and crop destroyers 17 

C Diseases and parasites of mammals - 18 

D. Hunting and trapping 18 

E. Protection of small mammals 19 

F. The importance of buffer species 19 


A. Furbearers and predators 20 

B. Game and recreation 21 

C. L^seful food habits 22 

D. Harmful food habits and other activities 25 


A. Pouched mammals 26 

B. Moles and shrews , 27 

C. Bats 27 

D. Flesh eaters 28 

E. Rodents 30 

F. Hares and rabbits 34 

G. Even-hoofed mammals 34 




A. Food. Cover. Water. Weather 41 



B. Natural enemies 43 

C. Hunting of birds 44 

D. Other factors 44 


A. Destruction of insects 45 

B. Destruction of weed seeds 46 

C. Destruction of crops and fruits . 46 

D. As predators and scavengers 47 

E. Recreational, educational, and esthetic values 48 


A. External structure 49 

B. Adaptations 49 


A. Classification 52 

B, Principal bird groups 53 


A. Seasonal status in North Carolina 54 

B. Seasonal activities of birds 55 






A. Conservation problem 65 

B. Stream conditions 67 

C. Pollution 70 

D. Drainage 70 

E. Restocking 70 

F. Management of the fish crop 71 

G. Value of farm fish ponds 71 


Recreational value 72 


A. External structure 73 

B. General adaptations 76 






Any attempt to describe the natural resources of North CaroHna 
is a tax on the imagination. The varied soils, thousands of miles 
of streams, lakes and waterways, the temperate climate and a 
progressive citizenry all combine to make our state the leader of 
the southern states in many fields. 

Although it is true that the industry and enterprising nature of 
the people of North Carolina have advanced the state to a position 
of leadership, it is just as true that all progress in the past and 
future is dependent upon the manner in which the two basic re- 
sources, namely the soils and the waters, are used. Too often the 
importance of our soils and waters have been underestimated or 
neglected, and yet all that has been achieved or will be achieved 
in the future could be traced back directly to one or the other, or 
both, of these fundamentals. No longer can these factors which 
contribute so vitally to our very existence be taken for granted, nor 
can they be considered as inexhaustible. 

In order to give a proper value to any one of the activities which 
deal with our natural resources, it is necessary to recognize the 
relationship of all of these resources to each other and then deter- 
mine whether our past and present use of them is wise and efficient. 
Since land, water, forest, minerals, wildlife, and people are the 
resources of North Carolina, and since people are the most im- 
portant resource, we must establish our values of the others in 
terms of the extent they can be and are used by the people. 

A brief list of the chief activities to be found in North Carolina 
would show that it is primarily an agricultural state. It is evident 
that the farming needs are concerned with soil and water manage- 
ment as well as climatic conditions. Modern farming methods are 
becoming more widely practiced and the science of farming is 
leading the way to larger and more valuable crops. The activities 
of well-organized youth groups are developing our rural youth to 
an awareness of the need for sounder farming practices. As a result, 


more of our young people than ever before begin their life on the 
farm, not only with more knowledge based on sounder principles 
but with a deeper understanding of the soil and the best ways to 
use it. 

The farm is the test ground for conservation, and the practice of 
wise use must begin with the soil and water in order to maintain 
and improve the present high standard of living of our farm 

Forestry and the manufacture of wood products may be con- 
sidered as separate activities, they are directly dependent on the 
lands, waters, and climate for their establishment in the same way 
and to the same extent as the farmers' crops. 

Many thousands of our people obtain a large part or all of their 
income directly or indirectly from the forests of North Carolina 
or their products. The manufacture of furniture, paper and almost 
limitless wood products, together with the actual growing and 
harvesting of the various woods required is a major industry. Only 
when the elements of soil and water are wisely used to grow trees 
for man's needs can there ever be an adequate source of supply. 
It must be remembered that wood, like tobacco or cotton, is a crop 
and it must be grown. 

The mineral resources of the state only now are being developed 
to the point that they constitute a major industry and they, too, 
are found to be a direct product of the land. At present, clay 
products, mica, feldspar, bromine, stone, sand and gravel are the 
principal mineral products. As man's needs increase and greater 
demands are made on the present sources of supply, the minerals 
of North Carolina will play a more important part in providing 
income for our people. ' 

Of the major resources, wildlife is usually the last to be con- 
sidered. It is, however, just as important to our welfare, happiness 
and prosperity. Wildlife in North Carolina can exist and thrive 
only where there are suitable lands, forests and waters, and when 
the people recognize it as a valuable resource. The words "wise 
use" are often given as another definition for conservation. Let us 
now discuss this resource in more detail and examine the past and 
present uses to determine whether conservation fits into the picture 
for the future. 

When the earliest colonists arrived, the condition of the relation- 
ship among the land, water, and climate and all living things 


dependent upon these factors, was such that it might better be 
described as a gigantic scale or balance. The life producing and 
sustaining elements might be considered as being on one side of 
the scale and all living things on the other. If this idea of a balance 
is kept in mind, it will be easier to see how the use and abuse of 
the basic elements has destroyed the balance and thus produced 
some of the conditions which cause our present wildlife problems. 
For instance, the ill-advised draining or marsh and swampy areas 
to provide more farm and grazing lands has destroyed the breeding 
places for waterfowl and valuable fur-bearing animals. 

In order to show how this principle of balance works, how it 
applies to our wildlife, and how it affects many of the factors 
previously mentioned, even to the very lives of the people of North 
Carolina, let us discuss the past use of our forest resources. 

Not long ago the forests of North Carolina covered a much 
greater area than they do now. Numerous species of birds and 
animals lived in them and obtained their food from them. Chief 
among these were the deer, bear, opossum, raccoon, squirrel, 
grouse, and wild turkey which depended on the forests for a place 
to raise their young and as a source of food. These creatures were 
in turn hunted and trapped to provide food and clothes. In fact, 
it may be said that our nation might have failed to live in its early 
days if it had not been for the abundance of wild animals and 
birds which provided a principal source of food and clothes and 
income for our ancestors. 

Throughout the years, as the farms and towns moved farther to 
the west, man's uses of the lands, forests, and waters became more 
intense, and coupled with his greed and wrong belief that there 
always would be enough, there began a wasteful period of activity 
in which serious damage has been done to the forests and many 
of our other resources. 

In order therefore to show more clearly how the balance of 
nature is affected by the things we do, let us, by the use of one 
resource as an illustration, show how the forest land is so definitely 
related to man, his welfare and activities. This example also will 
show that nearly all the resources of North Carolina are related and 
that a serious abuse of one has its effect on others. 

The forests themselves perform a valuable function in many 
ways. The tree roots hold the soil in place on the steep hillsides. 
The dead and decaying leaves on the forest floor aid in holding 


rain water and water from melting snows in many small puddles 
no larger than large raindrops and allow this water to seep into 
the ground whence it finds its way to underground streams and 
finally through springs into our larger streams and rivers. 

As man's numbers and needs increased through the years, he 
found that the wood available in the forests was becoming more 
valuable. Many of the great individual fortunes of today had their 
beginning in the use of the forests and their products. The trees 
were cut down with no thought for the future; den trees which 
were the homes of small animals were destroyed even though they 
had no commercial use; and what is most important, no attempt 
was made to replace the trees taken by planting young trees. 

Thousands of acres of North Carolina's timberland are burned 
each year by careless people. Fire is perhaps one of the most 
disastrous abuses of our forests because it not only kills the trees 
and wildlife but destroys the water control properties of the forest. 
The rains fall directly to the bare ground without the interruption 
of the trees and their foliage. The drops quickly run together to 
form puddles, the puddles overflow and combine to form small 
floods. When this procedure is repeated many times and many 
small streams finally merge with a river, the result is a big flood. 
It must be remembered that water cannot be poured into a funnel 
in a greater volume than the small end will discharge; likewise 
the carrying limits of a stream system cannot be exceeded if floods 
are to be avoided. 

The bad effects of floods are too generally known to everyone 
to require great detail; therefore, we mention a few such as the 
destruction of land, buildings, herds and flocks, crops, income, and 
much of our wildlife. The Roanoke River bottom areas, for instance, 
which are densely wooded and quite often flooded are the home 
of one of our largest wild turkey populations. These great birds nest 
on the ground and the young birds are extremely vulnerable to 
moisture. They easily contract certain diseases if they get chilled 
and wet. Floods destroy nests and are harmful to many species 
of birds and animals. 

Among the effects of forest fire previously mentioned, there is 
one that is not apparent and that is the destruction of certain 
species of fish. The western North Carolina mountain section has 
been popular with sportsmen who come to that area to fish for 
trout. These sportsmen bring much revenue into the mountain 


areas thereby benefiting the people who serve them. Trout are 
excellent game fish and can live only in the clear, cold, sw^ift 
mountain streams. When the forest cover which shades these 
streams is destroyed by fire or axe, the temperature of the water 
is raised by exposure to the sun. Trout will not survive and re- 
produce under these conditions; therefore, sportsmen will not 
continue to come to troutless streams and the revenue they would 
otherwise contribute is lost. 

It is estimated that more than four billions of dollars are spent 
annually over the nation by hunters and fishermen. North Caro- 
lina's share in this volume of business depends entirely on how 
well we manage our wildlife resources to provide good hunting 
and fishing. 

Thus it may easily be seen that there is a relationship between 
all resources — each depending on the other to a greater or lesser 
degree for existence. Perhaps this interrelationship can best be 
illustrated by remembering the childhood jingle entitled "The 
House That Jack Built," particularly as the chain of events related 
in that poem can aptly be applied to some of the ills whicli are 
evidence of our present wildlife and conservation problems. 

In wildlife management, these problems concern the decreasing 
numbers of game animals, birds, and fish. Let us consider briefly 
the causes. 

Probably the most important cause of decreasing populations 
has been the destruction and reduction of the types of habitat on 
the lands and in the waters which are most favorable to wildlife. 
Careless timbering methods, together with changed farming prac- 
tices and increased hunting and fishing pressure, are limiting 
factors. Fields are cropped from border to border and wire fences 
take the place of the zigzag rail fences and their accompanying 
tangle of honeysuckle and blackberry briars. Land has been cleared 
in large blocks; many of the isolated islands of thickets and trees 
have disappeared and with them the coveys of quail and other 
species which lived there. 

The most important problem is the attitude of man. Until 
recently, game was so plentiful that it was slaughtered for the 
market. The eventual shortage of certain species was deemed 
impossible. In fact, such species as quail, rabbits, and waterfowl 
were taken for granted. The annihilation of the passenger pigeon, 
Labrador duck and the near extinction of the Carolina parakeet, 


trumpeter swan, bison, and many others has awakened the con- 
sciousness of many of our sportsmen to the great need for an 
educational movement and a concerted effort to check the down- 
ward trend of our wildUfe population through careful management. 
^ Our General Assembly has placed the management of these 
affairs in the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in 
order to establish such a conservation program. This is only one 
step towards the cure. This agency of the state government con- 
sists of nine representatives from nine wildlife districts throughout 
the state, each district comprising an average of about eleven 
counties. It is therefore evident that the varied interests and areas 
of the state as a whole come before the Commission, and it is on 
this representative group that the responsibility for laying the 
broad general policy is placed. 

The Commission staff is separated into the following divisions: 
Fish, Game, Law Enforcement, Education, Finance and Personnel, 
and Engineering. Each of the divisions is further divided to provide 
for its necessary operational functions and staff. 

The effort of the Wildlife Resources Commission and its st 
is directed to the protection of our existing game and fish through 
laws and regulations and their enforcement, the repopulation of 
depleted areas with game and fish, the education of our citizens 
regarding the value and efficient use of our wildlife species, and/ 
above all, to a wise, sound, and efficient management of the entire 
program. / 

The production of this booklet and the monthly publication oi\ 
the magazine, WILDLIFE IN NORTH CAROLINA, with 
technical bulletins covering game and fish management, as well as 
the maintenance of a film library, are some of the educational 
activities engaged in by the Commission. In addition, a regular/ 
weekly program is broadcast by a number of radio stations which 
give state-wide coverage. The Commission staff has many qualified 
consultants and speakers who are available for conducting programs. 

The remainder of this booklet will be devoted to the mammals, 
birds, and fish which are found in North Carolina. Under each 
general class the booklet deals with conservation problems; kinds 
and adaptations, and their importance with respect to their use by 
man. Finally, at the end of tlie section covering each major class, 
there is a list of activities which are practical demonstrations of 
the significant points brought out by the text. 



Gray squirrel. 



The destruction of favorable habitats has been the principal 
cause of the decline of most useful wildlife species; hence the 
improvement of habitats v^ill be an important factor in their con- 
servation and restoration. The increasing demand for game makes 
habitat production necessary. 

The three essentials for a favorable habitat are food, water, and 
cover. All of these must be present in close proximity. The absence 
of any one is likely to limit seriously the population of wildlife. 

L Poor forest management harms mammals — good manage- 
ment helps them. 

a. The clear cutting of forests has been generally unfavor- 
able to fur and game mammals. 


b. In North Carolina hundreds of acres of timberland are 
being cleared each year. Many thousands of acres of non-pro- 
ductive land, however, are now regarded as better adapted to 
forestry than to farm crops. 

c. Clearing has reduced the quantity and quality of game 
cover. For the protection of the raccoon, opossum, and squirrel, 
the destruction of den trees is prohibited by law. 

d. Clearing has destroyed much food such as nuts, fruits, 
and berries, and in some places has reduced the population of 
some smaller animals which serve as food for the furbearers. 

e. Clearing of timber from steep hillsides has accelerated 
runoflE and erosion resulting in irregular stream-flow and silting 
of channels. 

f. Proper management of farm woodlots to insure a per- 
manent stand of timber improves the habitat for woodland 

2. Good farm management practices contribute to the con- 
servation of wildlife — bad practices to its decrease. 

a. Intensive farming has followed clearing on much land. 

b. Clean farming has destroyed much of the natural cover 
such as fencerows, brushy land, weed patches, and grassy ditches. 

c. Intensive farming has increased the total potential food 
supply for wildlife, but frequently the food is not available, either 
because of insufficient cover or travel lanes, or because clean farm- 
ing leaves insufficient food for the winter depression. 

3. The conservation of water is related to wildlife management. 

a. Drainage has been a factor in the destruction of habitat. 

(1) Drainage of marshland has the dual effect of re- 
ducing the total water area and lowering the water table. 

(2) Muskrat, mink, otter, beaver, and waterfowl are 
more affected by drainage than upland species. 

(3) Any future plans for drainage or other water con- 
trol projects should consider the value of the land for wildlife 
as w^ll as for agriculture. 

b. Some larger ponds, properly constructed and managed, 
provide suitable habitat for muskrats. A good farm pond should 
have an area of at least one-fourth acre and a grassed drainage 
basin of at least three acres. The minimum depth of the deepest 
third of the pond should be eight feet. 

c. Ponds serve other useful purposes: the conservation of 


water, the checking of erosion, and the production of fish. They 
hold in reserve for domestic and wild animals a supply of water 
which would otherwise escape as runoff. The retarding of runoff 
from small watersheds reduces the amount of erosion and helps 
to prevent the flooding of larger streams in periods of heavy 

4. Careless burning of fields and woods has detrimental effects. 

a. It destroys food and cover for wildlife. 

b. It destroys nests and young animals. 

c. It damages the quantity and quality of timber. 

d. It increases erosion by destroying plant cover. 

e. It destroys the organic matter of the forest floor. 

5. Overgrazing of pasture and timber land has accompanied 
intensive farming. 

a. Closely-grazed land is unsuited to practically all forms 
of wildlife. 

b. Overgrazing leaves the land without adequate plant 
cover to prevent erosion. 

c. Overgrazing destroys shrubby borders around woodlots; 
the presence of such a border is one earmark of a good wildlife 


1. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission co- 
operates with the counties in providing the services of consultants 
where conservation problems require attention. 

2. Many of the game and furbearing species are potential 
destroyers of poultry, although comparatively few individual mem- 
bers ordinarily engage in such activities. 

3. Measures directed toward the control of predators should 
seek to eliminate individual animals caught in the act of destruction, 
but not to annihilate an otherwise useful species. 

4. The methods used in the control of predators should be 
those which have been tested by experience. Uncontrolled public 
destruction of any predatory species by poisoning, shooting, trap- 
ping or other methods should be avoided. 

5. The control of crop-destroying mammals is more difficult 
than the control of predators. The whole problem is made more 


complex by the interdependence of the predators and crop- 
destroyers, hence a normal population of the former is one of the 
best means of controlling the latter. 


1. Diseases and parasites may play an important part in limit- 
ing the population of a species. Three examples of animal diseases 
communicable to man or livestock are tuleremia of rabbits and 
other wildlife, hoof-and-mouth disease which once appeared in 
California deer, and rabies, which has been found in skunks, foxes, 
and in other animals. 

2. The accumulation of knowledge concerning . diseases and 
parasites is limited by the difficulty of studying animals in the 
wild. Research on this problem has been largely confined to (a) 
study of wild animals reared in captivity, particularly on fur farms, 
and (b) post mortem examinations. 

3. Diseases of wild animals are apparently closely related to the 
problem of population cycles — i.e., the periodic rise of the popula- 
tion of a species to a certain upward limit, followed by a decline 
to a lower limit. It is not known whether cycles are the cause or 
the result of diseases and parasites. 


1. Game and furbearers should be regarded as a crop of the 
land and managed as such. This basic principal is most important 
to wildlife management. 

a. Most of the animals in excess of an adequate breeding 
reserve may be harvested for man's use. 

b. If animals in excess of the carrying capacity of the land 
are not harvested by man, they will he destroyed by natural 
agencies — starvation, exposure, predation, disease, or others. 

2. Excessive hunting, if continued, may destroy the breeding 

a. The harvesting of species such as the mink, muskrat, 
otter, and beaver should be closely regulated until a sufficient 
breeding reserve has been built up. At present, there is no beaver 

Xtrapping season in North Carolina. 

b. Excessive hunting is most common near urban centers. 


3. Improvement of environmental conditions should accompany 
regulated hunting and trapping. 

a. Restriction of hunting and trapping without improve- 
ment of habitat will not restore wildlife. 

b. Conservation of game and furbearing mammals is a 
joint responsibility of the landowner, the trapper, and the 

c. State laws and regulations governing the hunting and 
trapping of game and furbearing animals should be known and 
observed by everyone. 


1. The word protection as used here does not necessarily mean 
legal restriction of kill. Rather, it is intended to mean the voluntary 
prevention of unnecessary destruction of those small mammals 
which are beneficial to man. 

2. As the food habits and life histories of shrews, moles, bats, 
chipmunks, and some other small mammals become better under- 
stood, these animals may be given the protection which their 
importance justifies. 


Although any animal can be said to belong to a buflFer species, 
we generally assign to this group those which are of less importance 
to man. Common examples are rats, mice, snakes, and grasshoppers. 
These are taken by the larger animals, thus providing a ready 
source of more easily caught food in a quantity sufficient to satisfy 
the larger species over a greater part of the year. The fox, for 
example, depends on normally abundant populations of rats and 
mice for its food; and to a much lesser extent on game animals 
and birds. This is true in the case of many of our predatory species. 


Any grouping of mammals on the basis of importance is im- 
possible. In one region an animal may be considered a valuable 
game or fur species, whereas in another it may be considered a 
harmful predator or crop destroyer. In spite of this fact, it is pos- 
sible to consider mammals as being important to man in four ways: 



1. Fur has always been an important resource in our state and 

a. The value of the fur catch in North Carolina increased 
greatly from 1920 to 1930. By 1946, the value had declined to 
approximately $460,000 from a much greater amount in 1930. 
The principal causes of the decline were: (1) the lower prices 
paid to the trappers and hunters for raw furs and pelts, and 
(2) the increasing scarcity of furbearing animals. 

b. In 1930, the annual fur catch of the United States 
was valued at $70,000,000. This was greater than the com- 
bined production of fur in Canada ($18,000,000) and Russia 
($35,000,000) . 

c. In 1930, furs ranked ninth in value among the imports 
of the United States, and twentieth among the exports. The 
total value of fur imports at that time was $122,000,000. 

d. In 1929, there was a $500,000,000 turnover of furs in 
the United States. By 1935 the annual turnover had dwindled 
to $150,000,000. Drought and depression contributed to this 
decline, but scarcity of furbearers also was a factor. 

e. The United States now imports furs from 80 countries; 
millions of dollars worth of rabbit skins are imported annually- 
The following table summarizes the total fur catch in North 

Carolina as reported for the season 1947-1948: 

Species Number Species Number 

Muskrat 105,406 Opossum 14,956 

Skunk (striped) 883 . Bobcat 44 

Raccoon 26,768 Mink 11,800 

Weasel 797 Gray Fox 3,555 

Otter 801 Civet (spotted skunk) 36 

Red Fox 114 

This table shows that for the state as a whole, the muskrat, 
raccoon, opossum, and mink ranked first, second, third, and fourth 

2. Most of the predatory mammals are also considered fur- 

a. Bobcats have the legal status of predatory animals in 
North Carolina and are not protected by law at any time. 

b. Weasels, minks, skunks, foxes, and opossums occasion- 


ally destroy poultry. Sometimes it may be necessary to kill the 
offending individuals, but it is not necessary to condemn a whole 
species because of this behavior on the part of a few. 

Predation is a natural method of maintaining a balance 
among wildlife species. The animals most easily taken by pre- 
dators are those which disease, injuries, or stupidity make unfit 
to survive. This limiting factor is beneficial to wildlife in general. 

d. Predation is usually greatest during periods of drought, 
food shortage, or other abnormal conditions. Under such con- 
ditions, many birds and mammals could not survive even with- 
out predation. 

e. Predation in most instances tends to prevent a species 
from over-populating its range and thus destroying its food 

f. Predation on livestock is frequently wrongly evaluated. 
Foxes are often blamed for killing quail and turkeys when dogs, 
cotton rats, and stray cats are the real culprits. 

The general tendancy is to overestimate the extent of predation 
and to underestimate the benefits accruing from the destruction 
of insects and harmful rodents by so-called predators. 

g. Much scientific investigation is needed before the true 
significance of predation can be appreciated. 


1. Some species of furbearers, particularly the red fox and the 
raccoon, are valued for the sport they provide as much as for 
their pelts. 

2. Recreation is the most important feature of nearly all hunt- 

3. The number of hunting and trapping licenses issued in 
North Carolina during the fiscal year 1947-1948 was a follows: 
77,808 statewide; 53,904 combination hunting and fishing; 109,201 
county; 2,685 non-resident; 1,161 statewide trapping; 2,000 

The number of fishing licenses issued in North Carolina during 
the calendar year 1948 was as follows: 39,588 statewide; 63,302 
resident day permits; 14,558 county; 2,973 non-resident; 26,515 
non-resident 1 and 5 day permits. 

4. The furbearing and game mammals are a source of interest 


to many people who do not hunt. Although most animals are 
difficult to observe in the wild, a large and growing section of the 
public is interested in studying and photographing them in their 
natural habitat. 

5. In North Carolina, nea r ly 1,250,000 rabbits are killed an - 
nually for sport and food. They make a significant contribution 
to themeat supply. , 

6. Our game and furbearing mammals provide sport for man y 
4:housands of hunters^ 


1. The furbearing mammals and some of the smaller mammals 
supplement the work of birds in the destruction of harmful insects. 

2. About 98 per cent of the food of skunks consists of insects, 
field mice, and similar foods. The fox, opossum and raccoon also 
feed in part on insects. 

3. Other small mammals such as shrews and certain mice feed 
almost entirely on insects. 

a. Shrews are particularly valuable for their work in destroy- 
ing forest insects. Because of their rapid rate of reproduction, 
shrews are usually present in large numbers whenever there is 
a large quantity of organic matter in the woods. The rapid rate 
at which their bodies change food to energy makes it necessary 
that they eat almost their body weight in insects every day. 

b. The mole is also valuable as an insect-eater; nevertheless 
it is' frequently condemned by farmers and gardeners. It burrows 
in search of insects which attack plant roots but it does not eat 
the roots. 

c. Bats are nocturnal in habit, and their value in the control 
of insects, although not well known, is thought to be consider- 

4. Foxes and other furbearers play an important part in pre- 
venting an excessive population of rodents and thus help to main- 
tain nature's balance among the various species. \/ 

5. The useful food habits of the fur and game mammals more 
than compensate, in nearly all instances, for any predation on 
poultry and livestock and damage to farm crops. 


Phoco Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 

The beaver, once extinct in North Carolina,; j/^ The black bear, our largest game 

has several colonies in the Sandhills area. ^ animal, inhabits dense swamps and 

rugged mountain country. 

Tie cotton rat could menace our crops and 
uail populations. HawUs and foxes help to 
eep them under control. 

The opossum is our only marsupial and is 
found all over the state. 


1. Some field mice destroy stored grain and grain in fields. 

2. The Norway rat and the house mouse are probably the most 
destructive and undesirable of all the mammals from the human 

3. Rabbits and certain mice, if present in numbers, frequently 
damage young trees, shrubbery, and gardens. 

4. Squirrels, raccoons, and bears sometimes concentrate in 
sufficient numbers to do considerable damage to stored grain and 
to corn in the "milk" stage. 

5. Groundhogs do some damage in hayfields by building 
mounds of dirt which interfere with the operation of the mower. 

6. Individual bears develop a taste for livestock and all bears 
have an inherent taste for honey where the hives are exposed to 
their raids. 

7. Deer have a fondness for peanut and sweet potato crops as 
well as orchard fruits. 

8. In considering the harmful activities of mammals there are 
two important conclusions: (a) Most species have some valuable 
characteristics, even though in large numbers they may at times 
be harmful; (b) When any species becomes seriously detrimental 
the cause may be man's own disturbance of the natural balance 
which normally controls the populations of all species. 


A brief summary of the characteristics and adaptations of some 
of the common mammals is here presented. Scientific names are 
given sometimes for the convenience of those who may wish to 
pursue a more detailed study. Such names are universal in mean- 
ing, whereas common names vary widely; for example, the name 
woodchuck is applied in some states to the groundhog, and in 
others to the mountain beaver. 

All mammals are vertebrates in that they have backbones made 
of a series of vertebrae. They diflFer, however, from other vertebrate 
animals in possessing two unique characteristics: (1) The body 
has an external covering of hair. (2) The young feed upon milk 
produced by the mother. 

Mammals, like birds, are warm-blooded and maintain a fairly 


constant body temperature. They vary in size from the smallest 
shrews to elephants and whales. The y occupy fon r p^pnera] ty \^^ 
^_of_h abitat: (Ij ^JJnder ground (fo«;jona^_oiLjiLggjn ^^ mam mals; for 
exarnple molesT (2) W ater (aquatic mammals), e.g. , 
(3) j^^and^ (terrestrial tnammals ) , e.g.rfo x£S...l3XITc££— (^boreal 
mammal sj , e.g.^qiiiS£ii._5ome occupy two or more types of 
KaKitat^i.e., they spend part of their time on land and part in 
water. The mink, muskrat, and otter are examples. 

Mammals, like all other animals, have special characteristics 
(adaptations) which enable them to live under special conditions. 
Some of these adaptations are seen in their structure; others appear 
in their activities. 

O n the basis of food habits, there are four genpral gr ^'^p^^ jj" 
inam mals: (\) Hesh-eaters, (e.g., mink) ^^J7)^ plant-eaters, (e.g., 
raEEit }j _(3) insect-eaters, (e.g., mole) ; and ^ 4) general feeders, 
(e.g^., opossum) . 

One can distinguish among our native mammals seven general 
groups. In the following paragraphs some common examples of 
each group are briefly discussed though by no means all that are 
found, even in North Carolina, can be mentioned: 


The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only North American 
representative of this group, which also includes the kangaroos of 
Australia and their relatives. The young opossums are born in a 
very immature condition and are carried in a pouch on the belly 
of the mother for several weeks. Even after they are able to care 
for themselves, the young return to the pouch when frightened. 
Dens are made in hollow trees, among tree roots, and in banks or 
ledges. Two or three litters, each containing from 5 to 14 young, 
are born each year. 

Opossums increase rapid'y under favorable conditions. They eat 
almost any sort of vegetable or animal matter, including dead 
animal matter (carrion) . They inhabit forests, woodlots, and even 
ditches along hedge fences on our farms. 

One special adaptation of the opossum is a long, naked tail 
which enables the animals to grasp the branches of a tree. 

The opossum is one of North Carolina's most abundant fur- 
bearers, and has increased in number during the past five years. 



l!" The moles are highly adapted to their particular habitat. 
They live in underground burrows and feed almost entirely on 
insects. Their eyes are very poorly developed and external ears are 
lacking, but the inner ear is sufficiently developed to enable the 
animal to respond quickly to vibrations such as those caused by 
footsteps near the burro v^. 

The mole has a long, pointed snout adapted for pushing through 
the earth. The front legs are short, shovel-like structures with heavy 
claws for digging. The animal is poorly adapted for movement 
on the surface, and its usual defensive reaction is to burrow down- 
ward very rapidly. The body is almost cylindrical, the front half 
being somewhat larger than the rear. The tail is short and hairless. 
The body is covered with fine, soft fur. 

2. The shrews are among the smallest of the mammals. They 
live mainly in the organic matter and leaf litter of the forest floor, 
where they make networks of small tunnels. They feed upon 
insects and occasionally kill field mice or others of their own kind. 
The shrews have pointed noses and feet adapted for digging. Be- 
cause of their small size and their habits, they are little known or 
appreciated by most people. The little short-tailed shrew and the 
Carolina short-tailed shrew are representative species found in our 


The bats are the only flying mammals. Some squirrels are called 
flying squirrels because they have the ability to glide through the 
air from treetops to the ground, but they do not fly. 

Bats live mainly in caves or other darkened places and seldom 
venture out except in the evening and at night. The mouth opens 
wide to permit the catching of insects in the air. The wingspread 
of a bat is very large in proportion to the size of the body, giving 
the animal remarkable powers of flight. The feet are very small 
and are used mainly for clinging to rocky walls and other steep 
surfaces. The body is covered with fine hair, but the wings are 
naked. The bat has well developed vision and a remarkably acute 
sense of hearing. 

Many of man's modern devices for navigation both in the air 
and on the sea use either reflected sound or reflected electrical 


impulses as their basic principle of operation. The bat emits sounds 
which are so high pitched that the human ear cannot hear them. 
These sounds are reflected from objects in the creature's path and 
thereby warn it in time to permit a change in the course of flight to 
avoid the obstacle. Thus bats can fly skillfully in total darkness. 


1. The raccoon (Procyon lotor^ , is one of the best known and 
most popular game mammals. An adult raccoon is about 32 inches 
long (about as long, but not nearly as tall, as a medium sized dog) . 
It has a bushy tail encircled with alternate bands of light and dark 

Raccoons live along the wooded shores of streams and lakes and 
the bordering lowland forests. Dens are usually in hollow trees, 
though the animals frequently use ground dens or small caves in 
cliffs. There is one litter a year, averaging 4 young. 

Raccoons travel almost entirely at night. Their food consists of 
clams, crayfish, frogs, turtles, insects, nuts, fruits, corn, and other 
grain, and occasionally birds or their eggs. 

Being particularly abundant in the east, raccoons are widely 
distributed in the wooded areas throughout North Carolina. For 
the past several years they have been maintaining themselves in 
North Carolina in increasing numbers. 

2. The mink (^Mustela vison) , is reddish brown and about 
as long as a house cat though much more slender. Dens are in 
banks of streams, under tree roots, and in hollow logs or stumps. 
The nest is made of grass and leaves and is lined with feathers, 
hair, or other soft material. One litter, averaging 5 to 6 young, is 
born in April or May. The young have no fur at birth and are 

The mink's food consists of small mammals, birds, frogs, fish, 
crayfish, fruits, and eggs. Because of its slimness, a mink can 
enter small holes and crevices in search of prey, and it is feared 
by other small animals. Mink are present in nearly all parts of 
North Carolina, but are most abundant along the wooded streams 
and marshes of the coastal region. 

Like the skunk, the mink is equipped with scent glands which 
give off an of?ensive odor, but unlike the skunk the mink cannot 
project its secretion. 

Mink fur is one of the most highly prized of the day, and 


those who own it are considered to be at the peak of luxury. Mink 
farming is a profitable business, therefore, and is increasing in 
popularity as several variations of fur are being developed. 

3. The skunk (^Mephitis) , is a relative of the weasel and mink. 
There are two species of skunks in North Carolina. They compare 
with the opossum in size and have various color patterns of black 
and white fur or they may be entirely black. The bushy tail is 
usually carried erect. Skunks are found in areas of mixed wood- 
land and fields, in the bottoms, and along brushy borders of creeks 
and ravines. Dens are in deserted ground-hog burrows, in small 
cavities among rocks, in hollow logs, or under tree roots. A single 
litter of 4 to 10 young, usually about 5, is born in April or May. 
The food consists mainly of insects, fruit, eggs, and small rodents. 
Less than 1 per cent of the food of skunks consists of poultry and 
game birds. 

4. The spotted skunk {Spilogale putorius) , is commonly called 
the civet cat. Civets resemble skunks, but are smaller and usually 
have spots instead of stripes on their back. The habitat and food 
habits are similar to those of the skunk, but civets are more con- 
sistant eaters of rats and mice. One litter of 2 to 6 young is born 
in April or May. 

In North Carolina, civets are more often found in the western 
mountain counties. Much less numerous than skunks, civets are 
apparently maintaining their numbers. 

5. The red fox {Vulpes fulva^ , is a relative of the dog and wolf. 
A red fox is about the size of a small dog. The den is in the 
ground or among rocks, and it usually has more than one entrance. 
The average number of young a year is 6, born in a single litter. 
The food includes small rodents (principally mice and cotton rats) , 
rabbits, birds, reptiles, insects, grain, fruits, berries, and carrion 
(decaying flesh) . 

■Red foxes are found in most of North Carolina, being more 
numerous in the western half of the state. They have increased in 
numbers in recent years. 

6. The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) , is generally sim- 
ilar to the red fox in size, life history, and food habits. It is most 
common in the central and eastern parts of the state and is increas- 
ing in numbers. 

7. The bobcat, or bay lynx (Lynx rufus) , in appearance and 
habits is similar to its close relative, the Canada lynx. A mature 


bobcat may be 36 inches long, and may weigh 20 or 25 pounds. 
It has long legs, large feet, and a short tail. 

There is one annual litter of 2 to 4 young, born in April or May. 
The den is located in a hollow log or in a hole among the rocks. 
The bobcat travels almost entirely at night and is seldom seen 
during the day. It feeds mostly on mice, rabbits, birds, young deer, 
and carrion. The range of the bobcat is the inaccessible mountain 
areas and the central swamps, though they are occasionally seen 

8. The black bear (Ursus americand) , is probably one of our 
most interesting game animals. It inhabits the deep eastern and 
south central swampy forests as well as the mountain forests of 
Western North Carolina. 

By nature, bears are shy creatures of solitary habits and are very 
seldom seen. Their sight is poor but the senses of smell and hear- 
ing are very keenly developed. These animals eat everything that 
comes to hand. Fruits, nuts, berries, insects, animals, and carrion 
are included in their diet. They are particularly fond of honey, 
either wild or domestic and do not mind the stings of wasps or 
bees obtained while robbing the combs. 

Bears do not mate until they are over three years old and the 
number of young varies from one to four. Young bears are ex- 
tremely small, practically naked and helpless at birth. 

Renegade bears are those that have learned the taste of such 
farm animals as pigs, sheep and cattle, and it is the individual 
committing the damage that should be destroyed. Ordinarily bears 
are not a menace to livestock. They are particularly fond of honey 
and young corn ears and in some sections of the state their damage 
to these crops may be considerable. 

Most states including North Carolina, have wisely enacted laws 
prohibiting the setting of steel traps for bears. The regulation of 
kill and other protective measures should assure a harvestable supply 
of this fine game animal for our citizens. 


This is the largest single order of mammals. 

The teeth of rodents are adapted for gnawing. There is a single 
pair of long, chisel-like, incisor teeth in each jaw. The upper and 
lower incisors are placed opposite each other. As the rodents gnaw 
hard objects, parts of the teeth are worn away and the sharp cutting 


edge is constantly maintained by the growth of the teeth at the 
base. Back of the incisor teeth are the molars adapted for grinding. 

The feet of rodents display several adaptations. The ground 
squirrel, woodchuck, and chipmunk have feet adapted for digging. 
Chipmunks are also skillful climbers. The fox squirrel and gray 
squirrel have sharp claw^s for climbing. The beaver and muskrat 
have webbed feet for swimming. The otter actually not a rodent, 
also has webbed feet. 

Some rodents, including the red and fox squirrel, have pouches 
in their cheeks for carrying food. 

1. The beaver (Castor canadensis^ , is the largest of North 
American rodents. It may attain a maximum total length of 43 
inches, and a weight as great as 80 pounds. The average size, 
however, is much smaller. 

The beaver has a broad, flat, scaly tail. The hind feet are webbed. 
Beavers build their homes of sticks and mud with the entrance 
under water. They frequently build dams across streams to im- 
pound a supply of water. The dam is made of sticks and logs and 
mud. Beavers live in colonies and establish new colonies as their 
numbers increase. 

The young are born from April to May, sometimes in late 
March. The average number of young is 4 a litter. The young 
remain with their parents two years and then mate. Beavers 
apparently mate for life. 

In this state the beaver became extinct, but has since be6n re- 
stocrked and is now increasing under protection and improved 
habitat conditions. 

2. The muskrat (Ondatra zihethica^ , ranks first among the 
furbearers on the basis of the number caught annually in North 
Carolina as well as in the United States. The muskrat is also the 
most prolific of the fur animals; 15 to 20 young a year is a fair 
average for a pair of muskrats. There are commonly 2 or 3 litters 
a year. 

The length of an adult muskrat is about 24 inches. The tail is 
long and hairless. A thick layer of fine fur is next to the body 
covered by an outer layer of coarse guardhairs. These two layers 
together are almost impervious to water. Muskrats live in bank 
burrows. In swamps or ponds they frequently build mound-shaped 
lodges of sticks and mud. Entrances and exits to dens and houses 
are usually under the surface of the water. 


The population of muskrats has decKned seriously since 1930. 

3. The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) , and gray squirrel (Sciurm 
carolinensis) , are the only squirrels important as game in North 
Carolina. Both are present in almost every county. Gray squirrels 
prefer bottom lands with heavy timber and are generally abundant 
throughout the state. The fox squirrel is most common in south 
central North Carolina and in other parts of the state w^here farm- 
lands and open v^oods predominate. Fox squirrels have 2 litters a 
year, v^ith 2 to 4 young a litter. Gray squirrels have one or more 
litters of 3 to 5 young each year. 

The squirrels build summer nests of leaves in trees and v^^inter 
dens in hollow^ trees. Their food consists chiefly of nuts, grains, 
and buds. 

4. The small red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) , is found 
in the w^estern counties of North Carolina. The nests are usually 
built in hollov^ trees or abandoned v^oodpecker holes. 

The red squirrel's small size, white breast, and dark rusty red 
back, as well as his noisy scolding chatter, readily identify him. 
He is capable of destroying birds nests, eggs, and young if such a 
taste is developed, or he can live peacefully with his neighbors. 

About 4 or 5 young are born in the late spring and are ready to 
follow the mother a few weeks after birth when she gives them 
food-hunting and tree-climbing lessons. Occasionally two litters are 
born in one year. 

The red squirrels are generally considered as an important buffer 
species in many of the northern states and probably serve in the 
same way as food for owls, foxes, and other predators in North 
Carolina. They are seldom hunted for food or sport. 

5. The woodchuck (Marmota monax) , is a member of the 
squirrel family and is commonly known as the ground hog. It is 
one of the very few North American mammals which really 
hibernates, and its hibernation has become the basis of the "ground- 
hog day" superstition in February. The woodchuck hibernates for 
only short periods and may be seen even during the winter months. 

Woodchucks vary in body length from 22 to 27 inches. The 
body color varies from grayish-brown to reddish-brown, and the 
intermixture of hairs of different colors gives the animal a grizzled 
appearance. Woodchucks live in burrows, in rockpiles, or in wood- 
piles. They are vegetarians and at times may do some harm to 
farm crops, though the damage is seldom serious. 


6. Rats may be divided into two general groups: (1) native 
rats and (2) introduced rats. 

a. The woodrat (Neotoma floridana) , is one of the less 
common of our native rats. It resembles the introduced Norw^ay 
rat in size and general body shape, (differing most conspicuously 
in the fact that the woodrat has a hairy tail and a sleeker, finer 
appearance with whiter underparts) . However, unlike its im- 
ported cousin, the woodrat is not destructive. Its food consists of 
green vegetation, seeds, nuts, roots, fruit, bark, fungi, and wild 
bulbs. In mild climates the woodrat bears several litters a year, 
each with 3 to 6 young. 

The native rats are of neutral importance and may be beneficial. 
They should not be condemned because of their resemblance to 
the destructive Norway rat. 

b. The cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) , is found from 
Virginia to Florida and its range extends west from Florida to 
Louisiana. These rats frequent hedgerows and weed fields where 
the ground cover is dense enough to permit protected access to 
foods and water. Burrows are dug underground where nests are 

. made. 

This small rat has a serious effect on our quail population as it 
is particularly fond of the eggs of quail and other ground-nesting 
birds. It competes with quail for food as it eats over 30 types of 
foods which are preferred by the bobwhite. 

Whereas the cotton rat is not as prolific as many other species, 
it often produces more than one litter a year and where the con- 
centration becomes very dense, many additional predatory species, 
such as hawks, owls, foxes, and others, become attracted to the 
area. If the rat population is greatly reduced, these predators turn 
to game and other species for food. 

Where necessary and possible, controlled burning of weed fields, 
ditch banks, and thickets has a limiting effect on the cotton rat. 

c. The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) , was introduced 
from Europe, and is universally rated as a pest because of its de- 
structive habits and relation to the transmission of disease. The 
species breeds very rapidly and is readily adaptable to varying con- 
ditions; therefore, it is difficult to control. It is important to re- 
member that one factor in the increase of the rat population has 
been the destruction of flesh-eaters such as foxes, weasels, owls. 


hawks, snak'es, and others which normally serve to control this 
and other pests. 

7. Mice also may be divided into two general groups: (1) 
native mice and (2) introduced mice. 

a. Of the several kinds of native mice, the most common 
are the wood mouse, the white-footed mouse, and the meadow 
mouse. Their runways may be found in meadows, pastures, or 
woods. The field mice, particularly the meadow mice, are im- 
portant for their damage to crops and orchards; however, they 
serve as food for fur and game mammals. 

b. The house mouse (Mus musculus) , like the Norway 
rat, has been introduced into the United States. 


1 . The cottontail (Sylvilagus) , is probably the most widely 
hunted mammal in North Carolina. It is important as game and 
serves as a source of food for predatory animals and man. The 
rabbit thus serves as a buffer, or shock absorber, between predators 
on the one hand and game, poultry, and livestock on the other. 
Cottontails are very prolific, however, and successfully maintain 
their numbers in spite of tremendous losses. The average number 
of young in a litter is four, and there are usually two or three 
litters a year. Cottontails occupy widely-varying habitats, but in 
general they prefer field borders which provide tall grass, weeds, 
and brush for cover. The thickest honeysuckle and blackberry 
briar tangles are favorite places to hunt for rabbits. 

Despite the many thousands of rabbits taken by hunters and 
predators, plus those killed on the roads by automobiles, the rabbit 
is capable of holding its own. 

Rabbits and squirrels can be bought and sold in many counties 
of North Carolina, and this practice should stop as there can be no 
true concept of game as long as it is the subject of commerce. All 
true sportsmen and nature lovers should exert every effort to halt 
the damaging commerce in our wildlife. 


1. The white-tailed deer {Odocoileus virginanus) , is one of the 
two representatives of this order among the game mammals of 


North Carolina. The 1948-1949 Game Survey indicated that there 
are about 50,000 deer in North Carolina. Deer are not completely 
distributed over the state, but are found almost exclusively in the 
extreme eastern, south central, and western counties. 

The deer are one of our most prized game species and are capable 
of establishing themselves and thriving if they are introduced in 
areas where the necessary living requirements are present. 

Although only the males characteristically carry antlers which 
are shed each winter, occasionally a female with a set of antlers 
is killed. 

The fawns are 'born in the spring and do not lose their spotted 
coats until the next fall. Usually one fawn is born, although twins 
are common. 

Deer feed by browsing on leaves, twigs, buds, berries, mosses, 
and plants found around woodland borders and quite often farmer's 
crops such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, and fruit trees suffer from 
their depredations, particularly when the natural food supply is 
low or the deer are too abundant. 

One peculiarity of deer is that they rarely migrate or travel over 
a wide area. If the food supply becomes depleted in the home 
range, the animals will not travel long distances in search of a new 
supply. Consequently a heavy snow and a prolonged cold period 
will sometimes find deer dead of starvation while actually only a 
short distance from a plentiful supply of food. 

Self-h unting dogs do damage to a deer herd when the fawns 
are in the woods and often kill females heavy with young. The 
practice of hunting deer at night with lights is discouraged as this 
method of hunting is actually stealing from the law abiding sports- 

2. The European wild boar (Sus scrofa) , occurs only in the 
far western counties of North Carolina, primarily Cherokee, Clay, 
and Graham. These unusual game animals were originally stocked 
on a private estate,- and it is generally believed that those now 
roaming the mountainous forests of this area are the descendants 
of a few which escaped from the private preserve. The litter usually 
contains 4 or 5 young and as there is not enough information on 
the breeding habits of these animals, no definite breeding season 
can be established. 

It is believed that everything edible including fruits, nuts, berries, 
farm crops, birds' eggs, frogs, and roots is consumed by the boars. 


When food is scarce in an area, the animals move on to another 
source of supply. 

The wild boar is a ferocious and unpredictable animal when at 
bay or when wounded, and inflicts heavy damage on the packs 
of hounds which are used in the chase. 

Evidence supports the belief that the original European boars 
have interbred with native wild hogs which would seem to account 
for the smaller size of some of the specimens now being taken. 

Despite heavy hunting pressure these animals are extending 
their range and are fast becoming a popular game species. Con- 
tinued regulation of the kill will be an aid in the further establish- 
ment of their population. 


1. Examination of fur. Examine the pelts or fur of several 
mammals and note: (a) the thickness of the coat, (b) the texture 
(softness or coarseness) of the fur, (c) the diflFerent kinds of fibers, 
and (d) the length of fibers. 

2. Comparison of fur. Compare the fur of land mammals, 
such as rabbit or skunk, with the fur of aquatic mammals, such as 
the muskrat. How does the fur of the latter protect the body 
against water .r* 

3. Examination of teeth. Examine the teeth of a herbivorous 
(plant-eating) mammal such as the cow, horse or sheep. How are 
they adapted for biting and grinding vegetable matter .^^ Examine 
the teeth of a carnivorous (flesh-eating) animal such as the dog or 
cat. How do they differ from those of a plant-eater? Examine the 
teeth of a rodent such as a squirrel or mouse. What are the special 
adaptations of these teeth? 

4. Comparison of foot structure. Compare the foot and leg 
structure of a cat, rabbit, squirrel, mole, bat, and muskrat. For 
what sort of use is each type of structure best suited? 

5. Kinds of mammals and their habitats in local community. 
List the different kinds of mammals found in your local community 
according to the following groups: furbearers, game and furbearing 
mammals, destructive rodents, and predators. Which are most 
abundant? Which are scarce? Which are most often seen in fields 
and woods? Which are found in and around water? Along fence- 
rows and field borders? Why do raccoons not live in treeless grass- 


land? Why are minks most numerous along woodland streams? Do 
some habitats contain more mammals than others? Why? 

6. Study of tracks. Carefully observe the damp soil along 
creeks or ditches, or along field borders after a rain or snow, and 
see how many different kinds of tracks you can find. Try to learn 
what animals made the tracks. What do the tracks and arrange- 
ments of tracks indicate about the animals? What other "signs" 
do mammals leave? 

7. Observation of young mammals. During the spring and 
early summer, watch for young rabbits, squirrels, opossums, 
skunks, etc. Do certain mammals show more activity at night? If 
so, what kind? 

8. Finding dens. Look for dens along banks of streams or 
ditches, in pasturelands, under tree roots, and in rock ledges. When . 
you find a den, note (a) whether it has more than one entrance, 
(b) whether a mound of earth is left at the entrance, and (c) the 
extent to which the den affords protection for the animals which 
inhabit it. Are there characteristic odors, tracks, scats (droppings) , 
or debris, in and around the entrance of the den? Dens should not 
be damaged during observation. 

9. Finding den trees. Visit a piece of woodland and look for 
large, hollow trees. Examine such trees to learn whether animals 
are using them. What species inhabit hollow trees? Look for den 
trees which have been cut by hunters or loggers. Why is the 
cutting of such trees a serious matter? Look for leaf and twig 
nests. What uses these? 

10. Inquiries about animal population trends. Ask someone 
who trapped ten or fifteen years ago how the numbers of furbearing 
animals of that time compare with those at present. Make similar 
inquiries about population trends of field mice, rats, rabbits, and 
squirrels. Are some species of mice more abundant at certain 
seasons of the year? 

11. Depredations on poultry and livestock. Ask several farmers 
whether they have lost poultry through the activities of minks, 
weasels, skunks, opossums, foxes, or other mammals. Find out 
whether dogs have recently killed sheep or other livestock in your 
community. How do predatory animals help the farmer to offset 
the damage from predation? 

12. Damage by rodents. Ask farmers to describe the amount 
of damage done to grain fields and stored grain by mice and rats. 

37 • 

Ask owners of orchards how much damage is done by rabbits or 
mice. Observe the burrowing of moles in gardens and fields. Do 
moles eat vegetables or bulbs. ^ Find out what methods are used to 
control rodents. 

13. Study of habitats. Look over the land of your community 
to learn whether it constitutes a favorable habitat for wildlife. Is 
there much wooded or brushy land? Are there any permanent 
ponds, lakes, creeks, or rivers .^^ Are there any swamps.^ Are there 
any large areas covered with tall grass or weeds Are the habitats 
arranged in checkerboard fashion or are they in solid blocks.^ Which 
arrangement is best for a wide variety of animals? 

14. Effect of clearing. If your community has land from which 
all the timber has been cut within the last twenty years, ask 
hunters and trappers who have lived in the community during 
that period whether the clearing has aflEected the supply of wildlife. 
Visit a woodlot border that has not been cleared. Look for paths, 
tracks, and other signs of the presence of small mammals. 

15. Intensive farming. If some of the land of your community 
is farmed intensively — i.e., with practically all of the available 
space devoted to crops — find out what kinds of mammals are pre- 
sent and whether they are numerous or scarce. 

16. Drainage. Find out whether there has been any drainage 
of swamps, marshes, or lakes, or straightening of stream channels. 
How has the drainage affected the wildlife population of the 

17. Burning of woods and fields. Find out whether the burn- 
ing makes the surroundings less favorable for wildlife. At what 
time of year would burning be most harmful to wildlife? Collect 
soil samples from a field or wood which has recently been burned. 
Compare these samples with soil taken from a woodland in which 
there has been no fire. Which samples have the more organic 

18. Overgrazing. Visit pasture land that has been very closely 
grazed for several years. Look for dens or other signs of wildlife. 
How is overgrazing related to the problem of conserving soil, 
water, and forests? 

19. Study of trapping methods. Read any available material 
which describes efficient methods of trapping. Ask trappers and 
hunters to explain the methods used in catching the various species. 
Find out how furs are lost or ruined by poor methods. Are there 


more humane methods of trapping than by the use of steel traps? 
How are the mammals caught alive and uninjured? 

20. Examination of pelts. Ask a hunter to show you a col- 
lection of pelts and to explain methods of skinning and caring for 
pelts. Gently pull the fur of a pelt; if it is prime the fur is firmly 
set in the skin and is not easily pulled out. At what season do most 
fur animals prime? 

21. Value of local fur catch. Interview local hunters and trap- 
pers to learn (a) approximately how many animals of each species 
are caught each year, and (b) the approximate cash value of the 
furs. Find out whether the value of the annual catch is increasing 
or decreasing. 

22. Study of fur garments. Visit a store and examine some 
fur garments. Find out what kinds of animals produced the furs, 
and what furs are the most expensive. Learn whether the furs were 
produced in the United States or imported, and how fur garments 
should be cared for. 

23. Prices and grades of fur. Write for several fur-buyers' 
catalogs and price lists. What are the different grades of fur? How 
do the various species compare as to price? 

24. Game Code. Secure a copy of the North Carolina Game 
Code from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission 
or your County Fish and Game Protector. Learn the regulations 
relating to the hunting and trapping of mammals common in your 

Banding birds gives scientists im- 
portant information about the routes 
birds travel in migration as v^^ell as 
many valuable facts which help de- 
termine hunting regulations on game 

Mr. Bob White, our most popular game 

Lespedeza bicolor provides food and 
for wildlife and helps the farmer in no y 

Photo Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 


Canada geese, Hyde County is their favorite wintering area. 




1. The three essentials in the surroundings of birds are food, 
cover, and water. If these three are present in proper form, and 
close enough together to be used together, they tend to reduce to 
a minimum the destruction of birds by natural enemies or severe 

2. All three of these must be present throughout the year. A 
shortage of any one of them for even one season results in a heavy 

3. The seasons of greatest loss due to environment are the 
spring and the late winter. In the spring, eggs, nests, and young 
birds are especially vulnerable to storms, predation, floods, and 
other natural factors. In the late winter, both food and cover may 
be scant when the most severe weather occurs. 

4. The destruction of natural food and cover, together with 


increased hunting pressure, has been the most important causes of 
the reduction of North CaroUna's bird population. The clearing 
of forests, the plowing of native grasslands, and the production of 
cultivated crops have been necessary, but they have destroyed 
large areas of food and cover once used by w^ildlife. 

5. Extremely clean farming, in v^hich all fencerows are cleaned 
and all v^^eeds and brush removed, destroys much of the food and 
cover that could have been used by useful and ornamental game 

'and son^^birds. 

6. Drainage, how^ever necessary it may have been from the 
agricultural standpoint, has destroyed the home of many thousands 
of waterfowl, marsh birds and shore birds. 

7. The burning of fields, field borders, and woods is often 
fatal to the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. 

8. The sudden rises of streams that drain from bare land and 
the loads of silt that they carry have done much to destroy the 
food and nest-sites of water-dwelling birds. The summer drying 
of streams that used to run throughout the year has had the same 
effect. Both of these are results of the loss of soil from the land. 

9. Conservation measures: 

a. Produce food and cover for birds on the lands that are 
not used for crops. These include field borders, woodland clear- 
ings, gullies, plant beds, and the land about buildings. Birds are 
found most around edges of fields, streams, ponds, roadsides, 
and other vegetated areas. 

b. Aid and protect birds as much as possible in the nesting 
season by the use of nesting boxes, bird baths, flushing bars 
when mowing, and by controlling wild fires. 

c. Feed birds as much as possible in winter by setting up 
feeding stations and shelters or, even better, by planting food 
patches of sorghum, lespedeza, or other grains along field borders. 

d. Where food is present without cover, or cover without 
food, or both without water, try to supply the missing element 
so that the birds can have all three without having to cross large 
open spaces and expose themselves to danger. 

e. Avoid burning or overgrazing the woods, and leave the 
hollow trees. Birds will more than repay the kindness in pro- 
tection against insect-pests. 

f. Plant the banks of ponds to grasses, shrubs, and water 


plants, thereby making them safer for wildUfe and protecting 
them against erosion. 


1. In North Carolina the stray house cat is the principal 
natural enemy of birds, doing its most serious damage during the 
nesting season. Not only stray cats which have to shift for them- 
selves, but also pet cats that are allowed to roam at night contribute 
to the killing of an estimated 6,000,000 birds each year in this state. 

2. Self-hunting dogs destroy a large number of ground-nests 
and young birds. 

3. Snakes destroy many eggs and young birds. On the other 
hand, they are important destroyers of harmful rodents and insects. 
Except for the poisonous snakes — which in this state include only 
the rattlesnake, copperhead, coral snake, and cottonmouth or water 
moccasin — and except for snakes caught in the act of robbing 
nests, they should be left alone because of other beneficial services 
they render. 

4. Skunks, squirrels, and other animals also destroy eggs and 
young birds at times but this destruction is not serious and nearly 
every one of these animals has its own value in another way. Hence, 
it is not very safe to condemn any one of them and start extermina- 
tion measures for fear of upsetting some important natural balance. 

5. Predatory birds, like a few of the hawks and owls, were dis- 
cussed in a previous section of the bulletin. Their effect upon the 
bird population, with the exception of the blue darters and the 
great horned owl, is negligible. This fact has been amply shown 
by the thousands of stomach-analyses made by federal biologists 
and others. 

6. Parasites and diseases affect wild birds, but so little is known 
about them at present that little can be done to prevent them. 

7. Conservation measures: 

a. Keep pets and hunting dogs under control, especially 
during the nesting season. 

b. Pay little attention under normal conditions to the other 
animal enemies of birds. Predators constitute one of Nature's 
ways of removing the weak, diseased, crippled, stupid, and 
otherwise unfit animals, leaving the more fit to perpetuate the 
race. Sometimes, in certain areas, a particular predator may be- 


come too abundant. It should be controlled, but careful thought 
should be given to any such problem. 


1. Hunting, at times, has been a factor in exterminating game, 
but there is a difference between reasonable hunting which takes 
only a surplus crop and overhunting which makes no provision 
for the future. 

2. The reasons why there is no biological harm in taking a 
crop of game birds, provided ample seed-stock is left, have been 
given earlier in this bulletin. 

3. Conservation measures: 

a. There is no reason, from the standpoint of the birds, to 
forbid hunting, but we should endeavor to leave enough birds 
to provide seed-stock for the next spring. 

b. We should try to determine what surplus can be taken 
safely and then not permit the taking of more than that. 


1. More birds, except perhaps game species, are killed by 
storms, by starvation, and by accidents during migration than in 
any other way. We can help to counteract this loss by improving 
the surroundings of those birds which we are in a position to assist. 

2. Millions of sea-birds and waterfowl were killed by oil 
dumped on the surface of the ocean from ships until this practice 
was outlawed by international treaty. The oil-film coated the 
feathers and made it impossible for the birds to rise from the water. 

3. Collectors of ornamental plumes and other parts of birds for 
the millinery trade almost exterminated the egret and certain other 
species until this commercial activity was stopped by federal law in 
1913. In 1940, a further agreement was reached between the 
feather trade, the federal government, and the National Audubon 
Society by which no more feathers and parts of wild birds, even 
from other countries, would be purchased and all present stocks 
would be disposed of within six years. 

4. Birds, especially slow fliers like the red-headed woodpecker, 
are frequently seen dead along the highways. The number is con- 
siderable but probably insignicant in the country as a whole. In 
some places the highway loss is being reduced by planting shrubs 


and other plants used as food and cover along the rights-of-way. 
This practice may increase the loss by causing more birds to fre- 
quent highway areas. 

5. The building of cities reduced the numbers of many birds 
that formerly lived in those areas but provided suitable habitat 
for other species such as sparrows, starlings, and pigeons. With 
the development of trees, ornamental shrubbery, gardens, and 
other attractions around homes, along streets, and in parks, more 
and more birds are finding it possible to live in and pass through 
even the largest cities. 


1. Birds have an enormous capacity for insects. Their body- 
processes go on rapidly and their bodies require large amounts of 
fuel, so they feed almost constantly. The crop of one nighthawk 
was found to contain 3,000 mosquitoes, and nearly 2,000 were 
found in one martin; other such cases are very common. 

2. Birds ordinarily take whatever insects are most abundant 
at the time. This habit is especially useful, because large gatherings 
of grasshoppers, army worms, web worms, and other pests cause 
most of the insect damage to crops and orchards. There are 
examples, too numerous to mention, of masses of injurious insects 
that have been cleaned out by gatherings of insectivorous birds 
which were attracted by the concentration of food. An excellent 
example is the destruction of the hordes of grasshoppers in Utah 
by a flock of gulls which previously had not been known to visit 
that state. 

3. Birds eat insects wherever the latter appear: in the air 
(swifts, swallows, flycatchers, goatsuckers, etc.) ; or in or on tree 
trunks and large branches (woodpeckers, nuthatches, creepers, 
etc.) ; or in or on the ground (fowls, sparrows, meadowlarks, 
shrikes, etc.) ; or in foliage (warblers, vireos, sparrows, finches, 
thrushes, etc.). There is no place visited by insects that is not 
also visited by some birds. 

4. Thus birds contribute greatly to the control of harmful 
insects, the damage by which has been estimated to be as high as 
one billion dollars a year. 

5. Birds are not, however, the only means of controlling harm- 


ful insects. The common belief that insects would destroy all 
vegetation and make the earth uninhabitable in a few years if it 
were not for the birds is probably not based upon fact. Insects, 
like all animals, are limited in numbers by food supply, natural 
enemies, and climate; and birds are not their only natural enemies. 
Insects prey on each other and spiders and similar insects play an 
equally important, or even more important part. A bird which eats 
beneficial insects and spiders is removing some the the enemies of 
harmful insects. 

On the other hand, birds are larger than insects; they eat more; 
they move about more, coming in contact with larger invasions 
of insects; and they eat a greater variety of insects than preying 
insects do. While not all important, birds are very important in 
maintaining the present balance of nature; therefore, protecting 
and encouraging them is abundantly justified. 


1. Much the same reasoning as in the preceding paragraphs 
can be applied to the relations between birds and weed seeds. They 
are important controllers of overabundance, though they are not 
the only destroyers of weed seeds. 

2. Their capacity for seeds is as great as their capacity for 
insects. The stomach of one bird contained 10,000 seeds, taken in 
a single day; and it has been estimated that the native tree sparrows 
of one midwestern state consumed 875 tons of weed seeds in a 
single winter. 

3. The sparrows, finches, game birds, and others of their kind, 
are the principal seed eaters, but most of the insectivorous birds 
which remain in North Carolina through the winter transfer their 
attention to seeds until the insects again become abundant in the 


1. Some birds cause considerable damage to small fruits like 
grapes and cherries, but this problem is usually local and does not 
change the value of the birds on a year-round basis. Measures for 
preventing this damage can be learned from other sources. 

2. Where certain birds have become so numerous as to destroy 


whole crops, as in some parts of California, control measures have 
had to be undertaken. 


1. Where individual predatory birds destroy property, they 
must be destroyed. 

2. Almost everyw^here and almost all of the time, how^ever, 
the predatory birds (hawks and owls) are distinctly valuable as 
killers of crop-destroying rodents and the larger insects such as 

3. Only two kinds of hawks (Cooper's and sharp-shinned 
hawks) are unprotected in North Carolina. They can be killed by 
anyone at any time, because their diet contains a large proportion 
of other birds. The Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks are common- 
ly known as blue darters and are fairly common. The goshawk 
almost never occurs in North Carolina. The killing of other hawks, 
except when caught in the act of destroying property, is forbidden 
by state law; most states protect these valuable birds. Other birds 
not protected and which can be taken at any time are the great 
horned owl, the crow, the starling, and the English sparrow. 

4. It would be wise for the reader to learn to distinguish be- 
tween the different kinds of predatory birds. Also it would be well 
for them to learn to distinguish between the misbehavior of occa- 
sional hawks and owls and the great value which nearly all of 
them have to man. 

5. Scavengers, like the turkey buzzard, (more properly, turkey 
vulture), crow, and bald eagle consume decaying animal matter. 
The crow has some bad habits and is outlawed in North Carolina, 
but the other scavengers should be protected. The bald eagle is 
now specifically protected by both State and Federal law. 

6. In North Carolina, the Wildlife Resources Commission is 
the agency charged with the duty of protecting birds. Although 
the money which enables the Commission to carry on its work 
comes mostly from hunting and fishing licenses or permits, the 
Commission is concerned with protection of all forms of wildlife 
and does not limit its protection to game birds only. Its plan of 
handling game birds is to regulate the number taken by hunting so 
as to preserve permanently an adequate breeding stock. 



\. The value of birds in adding to the enjoyment of campers, 
vacationists, and all other users of the outdoors needs no further 

2. The p;ame birds in Nort h Carolina at present are the ra ils, 
du cks and geese, wild turkeys, quail, d ov es, and grouse . Their 
hunting is governed by state and federal laws and is restricted so 
as to insure the preservation of an adequate breeding stock for the 
next year. 

3. North Carolina now has about 200,000 licensed hunters, 
plus a large number of others for whom licenses are not required 
by law. Farmers and farm boys do not have to have a license to 
hunt on their own lands. 



Birds have many distinct characteristics which fit them to live 
under special conditions. Adaptations are such characteristics. Some- 
times adaptations are structural, as the webbed feet of some water 
birds (ducks) or the strong talons of predatory birds (hawks) . 
Sometimes they are functional or physiological, as the high tem- 
perature of the body. Naturally many of them are associated with 
the bird's power of flight, but there are also many others. A short 
account of the general stfucture of a bird and of some of the more 
conspicuous adaptations which the reader should notice is given 
on the following page. 





















Diagram showing the principal external parts of a wild duck. 


1 . Flight adaptations are made possible by (a) feather structure, 
(b) lightness and streamlining of the body, and (c) the develop- 
ment of the forelimbs into wings. 

a. The principal types of feathers are four in number: 
Contour feathers are the exposed body feathers and have over- 
lapping vanes (the strong, flat part of the feather) with downy 
filaments at the base. Flight feathers are very large contour 
feathers with little or no down. Down feathers are soft and have 
no vanes; they form the feather layer next to the skin, and by 
holding a layer of small air pockets about the body, help to 
conserve body heat. Thread feathers (filoplumes) have long, 
hair-like shafters with no vanes and few or no downy filaments; 
th ey remain on the body after the other feathers have been 
removed by plucking. The vane of a flight feather or a contour 
feather is composed of small threads (barbs) extending out 


from the shaft; these barbs are held closely together by tiny 
hooks, which can be seen by aid of a magnifying glass, and in 
this way they do not permit the passage of air through the 

b. The bones of a bird are light and the skeleton is very 
compactly built. Some of the larger bones are hollow, such as 
those of the thigh, upper wing, and breast. These bones some- 
times contain air sacs extending out from the lungs. This arrange- 
ment makes the bones lighter and increases the surface through 
which breathing takes place. 

The body is streamlined; it tapers from front to back and 
from head to belly. Such a shape reduces wind resistance when 
the bird is in flight. Many important points in the designing 
of automobiles and airplanes have been taken from the structure 
of birds. 

c. Different kinds of flight are associated with different 
types of wing structure. Soaring birds like hawks and buzzards 
have long, broad wings; agile, darting fliers like swallows and 
chimney swifts have long narrow wings. Some birds, like the 
flightless penguin, have their wings modified as flippers for 
"flight" under water. 

The wing has most of the bones that are found in the human 
arm, but those of the wrist and hand are combined into a very 
few bones. 

The large tail feathers of many strong fliers serve as a brake 
and as both a horizontal and a vertical rudder, as well as for 
other purposes not related to flight, such as, courting accessories 
and balancing aids. 

2. Perching and grasping adaptations are made possible by the 
structure of the feet. 

a. There are usually four toes on each foot, most commonly 
three forward and' one backward, but sometimes (as in the wood- 
peckers and parrots) two forward and two backward. Either 
arrangement enables the bird to grasp a branch or some other 

b. Strong tendons pass from the leg muscles to the toes. 
They are so arranged that when a bird settles down on a limb 
the toes are locked in place, so that the bird may even sleep 
without losing its balance. 

c. Predatory birds, like the hawks and owls, have unusually 


strong feet and claws called talons for catching and holding their 

3. Food-getting adaptations involve both flight and grasping 
and also the structure and use of the bill and several other adapta- 

a. Flesh-eating (carnivorous) birds, such as the hawks and 
owls, have strong, hooked bills for tearing or shredding flesh. 

b. Seed eaters, such as the sparrows and the cardinal, have 
heavy, seed-crushing bills. 

c. Insect eaters, such as warblers and vireos, have slender, 
sharp bills. 

d. There are various other types of bills, such as the heavy, 
sharp chisel of the woodpeckers, the saw-toothed bill of the 
mergansers (fish ducks) , the long bill of the snipe and wood- 
cock used for probing in the mud, and many others. 

e. The mouth is unusually large in birds like swallows, 
swifts, or nighthawks, which catch small insects in the air. 

f. The woodpeckers have tongues with back-curved spines 
which are used to extract grubs from their holes in the bark and 
wood of trees. 

g. Most birds have crops for storing food until it can be 
digested. The crop is located between the throat and the stomach. 
It enables the bird to take a comparatively large quantity of food 
hurriedly and then to carry on digestion continuously. 

h. Most birds have gizzards, in which the hard parts of 
the food are finely ground, with the aid of grit or gravel which 
is part of their diet. 

4. Swimming and diving are aided by adaptations of the feet. 

a. Most aquatic birds, such as ducks, geese, pelicans, gulls, 
loons, and others have webbed feet. In the pelicans and their 
relatives, the webs are between all four toes; in the others, only 
between the forward three toes. 

b. The grebes and coots have lobes on the toes instead of 
webs between them. 

5. Adaptations in body functions: Birds have a high body 
temperature. This is a result of the very rapid combustion (oxida- 
tion) of food which accompanies the vigorous actions of nearly 
all birds. 

a. Radiation or loss of heat from the body is reduced by the 
structure of the feathers, with their entrapped layer of air, and 


by the fact that the contour feathers shed water so that the skin 
is never really wet. The liquid from an oil gland (preen-gland) 
located at the base of the tail is used by birds to coat the feathers 
which enables them to shed water. 

b. The heavy down of the breast is held around the eggs 
during incubation, thus retaining the heat of the body of the 
setting bird. Sometimes, for example in some of the. ducks, down 
is plucked out and used to line the nest. 

c. The wings are also used to cover the eggs or young at 
night or during bad weather; thus wings aid in preventing the 
loss of heat. 



1. Classification of all animals is necessary for the same reason 
that books in a library or soldiers in an army must be classified 
into large, then successively smaller groups. The classification of 
animals is one way of showing their relationships to one another. 

2. All birds belong to the large group of animals which have 
vertebrae or backbones; these are known as the Vertebrates. 

3. Within the group of Vertebrates, birds are placed in a class 
known as Aves. They are distinguished from all other vertebrates 
(fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) because they possess 
feathers. No other vertebrates have feathers. Birds and mammals 
are the only warm-blooded animals. 

4. The class to which the birds belong (^Aves) is further sub- 
divided into Order, Families, Genera (singular: Genus), and 
Species, just as a Battalion is sub-divided into Companies, Platoons, 
Squads, and Individuals. 

5. Finally, the individual kind of bird is given a name like that 
of a person. Scientific names are used because they are recognized 
the world over. Common names vary from place to place. The 
scientific names of a bird (or of any other animal) usually consists 
of two parts: The Genus or group name like Smith or Jones and 
the Species or individual name like Frank or Mary. Among the 
Chinese, the generic (family) name comes first, the more specific 
name second. This plan is used in applying names to animals. Thus 
the robin is Turdus migratorius and the English sparrow Passer 


domesticus. If we did the same thing with human names in 
America, we would say Smith John or Jones Frank. 


1. Water birds include the ducks, geese, swans , pel icans , 
loons, grebes, coots, gulls, and their relatives. I'hey have webbecT 
or lobed teet and swim expertly. 1 hey are also strong fliers and 
migrate for long distances. Their food includes water plants, water 
insects, fish and other small water animals; gulls especially are 
useful scavengers, feeding upon dead animal matter near water. 

2. Shore birds and marsh birds include the herons, cranes, rails, 
snipes, sandpipers, plovers, and their relatives. Most of these birds 
feed in the shallow waters on water plants, fish, and small water 
animals. They are adapted to this habitat by having any or all of 
these features: long bills, long necks, long legs, or large feet. 

3. Fowls or gallinaceous birds, include not only domestic poultry 
but the wild birds related to them, such as quail, wild turkey, 
pheasants, and ruffed grouse. These birds are mostly ground 
dwellers, with strong feet for scratching, heavy bills, stout bodies, 
and short, broad wings for a short rapid flight. 

4. Birds of prey include the hawks, eagles, owls, and a few 
others such as the shrikes. Actually, of course, even a bird that 
eats a grasshopper is a bird of prey, but the term is commonly 
applied only to those that kill other vertebrates for their food. 
These birds are strong fliers, with powerful talons for catching 
prey and hooked bills for tearing flesh. Almost all of them, how- 
ever, take a large proportion of insect food, and as a group they 
are far more beneficial than harmful. This question is discussed 
later in this bulletin. 

5. Woodpeckers and a few other birds like the nuthatches, 
creepers, and the black-and-white warbler, feed upon insects on or 
in the trunks and larger branches of trees. 

6. Aerial feeders include birds of several groups which feed 
upon small insects in the air. They have large mouths, long, slender 
wings for agile flight, and small, weak feet. Examples are the goat- 
suckers (nighthawks, whippoorwill, etc.) , chimney swift, and the 
various swallows and flycatchers. 

7. Warblers, vireos, and many other small birds feed mostly 
among the leaves and smaller branches of trees, on the insects that 
live there. 


8. Seed eaters include the fowls and many other smaller birds 
such as the sparrows and finches. 

9. General feeders include most birds, even many of those 
already listed. When insects are abundant, they feed upon insects. 
When weed seeds are plentiful these are taken, as during the 
winter. Sometimes these birds eat buds, berries, fruits, or dead 
animal matter. One of the greatest values of birds is that most of 
them can eat whatever is most abundant at the time, a point that 
is discussed below. 



The seasonal status of a bird represents the period it spends in 
North Carolina. On this basis, then, nearly all of the approximately 
400 species and sub-species of birds that have been known to occur 
some time or other in this state can be placed in six groups: 

1 . Permanent residents remain in the state throughout the year. 
Examples are the crow, jay, cardinal, quail, and chickadee. 

2. Summer residents arrive in the spring, nest in North Caro- 
lina, and go South again in the fall. Examples are the orioles, many 
warblers, goatsuckers, swifts, cuckoos, and hummingbirds. 

3. Winter residents arrive in the fall from their more northern 
breeding grounds, spend the winter in North Carolina, and go 
north again in the spring. Examples are ducks and geese and other 

4. Transient visitors nest north of North Carolina and winter 
south of this state, and are found here only during the spring and 
fall migrations. Examples are most of the thrushes (except the 
wood thrush) , most of the ducks, many warblers and sparrows, 
and most of the shore birds. 

5. Summer visitors nest farther south but wander northward 
into North Carolina after the breeding season. Examples are the 
wood ibis and some of the herons. 

6. Winter visitors ordinarily spend the winter north of North 
Carolina but in severe winters sometimes move into parts of this 
state. Examples are the snowy owl, lapland longspur, and the snow 

7. These designations do not necessarily apply to the entire 
state and must be worked out locally. For instance the song sparrow 


is a permanent resident in western Nortli Carolina but only a 
winter resident in eastern North Carolina. 


1 . Spring (Mating and Nesting time) : This is tKe season of 
the arrival of the migrants and is the time for song, courtship, 
mating, nesting, incubation of the eggs, and care of the young. 
These activities extend well into the summer, and some birds, like 
the mourning dove, may continue nesting into the early fall; but 
the spring is the season when the breeding period begins. 

a. Some birds, especially the duller-colored ones, do not 
change color throughout the year. Most male birds, however, 
have their most brilliant plumage in the spring and early sum- 
mer. It is then that they display their greatest powers of. song, 
which is now believed to be a means of warning intruders away 
from the territory which they have set up for summer. 

b. The territory is further defended by fighting, more fre- 
quently by the male, but often by both members of the pair. 
The fighting instinct is so strongly developed at this season that 
birds have been seen trying to fight with their own reflections 
in window panes. 

c. Birds exhibit many kinds of courting behavior, from the 
puffing and cooing of pigeons on the barn roof, the strutting and 
display of the cock pheasant or turkey gobbler, to persistent 
chasing of the females or the drumming of a grouse in the woods. 

d. Once mated, the two sexes generally remain together 
only for a single breeding period, but some remain for many 
years, others perhaps for life. The Canada goose and the whistling 
swan are believed to mate for life. Most birds, however, keep 
the same mate for one season and then change to another. 

e. The male often builds a number of extra nests, as in the 
case of the house wren, but the female usually takes the lead in 
constructing the nest that is actually used. 

f. Each kind of bird has its own preference as to nest site. 
Some, like the quail, meadowlark, and towhee, nest on the 
ground. The Baltimore oriole suspends its nest from the tip of 
an overhanging branch. Wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, wood- 
peckers, and many others occupy holes, and it is this group that 
is most easily attracted to the premises by setting up artificial 
nesting boxes. Cardinals, thrashers, catbirds, and birds of similar 


habit nest in shrubbery; whereas phoebes, robins, and barn 
swallows prefer the bare sides and shelves of buildings, bridges, 
or other structures. Nests in high trees, like those of the crested 
flycatcher and many of the smaller birds, are more difficult to 
find but are none the less characteristic of the species. 

g. The number of eggs laid in a clutch is fairly constant 
for each kind of bird, varying from the one or two of the mourn- 
ing dove or whippoorwill to fifteen or more in the nest of a 
bobwhite quail. Most of our common birds, however, average 
three to five eggs in a clutch. 

h. In some cases both sexes share the duty of incubation; 
where only one sex incubates, it is almost always the female. The 
incubation period varies from 10 to 30 days, usually longer for 
large birds. Most of our common songbirds have an incubation 
period of about two weeks. 

i. In North Carolina there is usually but one brood a season, 
but many common birds (robin, bluebird, cardinal, chickadee) 
have two, and some (mourning dove) have three; the English 
sparrow may have even more. 

j. Young birds are of two kinds Precocial young when 
hatched, are well feathered and ready to^ leave the nest almost 
at once; examples are the fowls, ducks, and plovers. Altricial 
young are nearly naked and quite helpless when hatcheHl~~they 
must be fed and brooded by the parents for a week or two be- 
fore they are ready to leave the nest; examples are doves, hawks, 
and all of the songbirds. 

2. Summer (Rearing and Moulting time) : During this season 
with few exceptions the rearing of young is completed before the 
quiet period during which moulting or shedding of the feathers 
takes place. 

a. After the young birds leave the nest, they may or may 
not continue to associate with their parents. Quail remain to- 
gether as a family group until the fall shuffle which splits and 
recombines family groups into winter coveys. Among robins, 
blackbirds, and many other species, the young may return each 
night to roost near their parents. Among other birds, however, 
the young wander about by themselves or in flocks with the 
young of other families. 

b. The lai e^ummer moult, in which the plumage is 
changed to the fall ro^ ti begins about mid-Tulv., During the 


moulting period birds are much quieter than before, and a patch 
of woodland that was formerly alive with singing birds will now 
be almost silent. 

c. J3uriti g August, and occasionall y ev en earlier^ appear the 
first migrants from the North . Some flycatchers, warblers, water- 
fowl, shore birds, and others, having completed their nesting, 
are on their way South for the winter. 

3. Fall: The southward migration is most conspicuous in this 
season. It involves the departure of the summer residents, the 
arrival of the winter residents, and the passage of the transient 
visitors through the state. It is far diflEerent from the spring migra- 
tion. Instead of brightly-colored, active birds, many of them in 
full song, we find duller-colored birds, usually silent except for 
faint call notes. They are secretive and shy. There are just as many, 
but only the close observer sees many of them. True, there are 
migrating flocks — blackbirds, waterfowl, hawks, nighthawks, and 
others — but most birds slip away or pass through unobserved. 
They are moving to their winter homes. Many species of birds 
prefer to travel at night. There are accurate accounts of birds flying 
against the windows of our tallest office buildings on dark nights. 
The birds may have been attracted by bright lights or merely failed 
to see the obstacle in their path. Only those persons who have 
heard the music of a flight of wild geese or swans on their way 
through the night can appreciate one of the great beauties of 

4. Winter: This is the most adverse season for bird life. All 
through the winter the bird must keep alive, feed, and store up 
energy for the next breeding season. There are fewer hours of day- 
light; so birds must feed actively whenever they can. Anything 
that man does to increase the amount of food during this period 
helps more birds to survive unfavorable conditions. Although it is 
not true that a well-fed bird never freezes, it is certainly true that 
a well-fed bird is much less likely to freeze. Winter is also the 
period of natural selection — when the less fit individuals die and 
only the fittest survive. Winter care of birds saves brood stock for 
next year's production. 

5. Seasons and the kill of game birds by man: Under ordinary 
circumstances, a larger number of birds is produced each breeding 
season than can survive throughout the winter. There is a yearly 
surplus which is lost before the next breeding season. In the case 


of some larger birds, which breed rapidly and possess game qualities, 
some of this annual surplus is taken by man, just as the farmer or 
stockman harvests his surplus corn or hogs, but keeps a breeding 
stock for the next year. This harvesting should not be done in the 
spring or summer, because then the birds are nesting and caring 
for their young. In the fall and winter, however, surpluses have 
been built up and may be harvested provided that an adequate 
breeding stock is left for spring. If such-a stock is left, man is 
taking birds that would have been killed by the forces of Nature, 
and biologically no harm is done to the species. Flunting must be 
limited, however, by the necessity for preserving the seedstock and 
by the amount of surplus that can be taken safely. 


To the average person, most instruction about birds is meaning- 
less unless he knows some of the birds himself at first-hand. Know- 
ing them does not mean merely attaching names to them. It also 
means becoming acquainted with their habits throughout the year, 
learning what factors affect them favorably and adversely, and 
knowing what can be done to encourage the former and reduce 
the latter. 

There are few natural history subjects in which the average 
person shows so much spontaneous interest as in birds, even without 
the aid of a teacher. This interest should be encouraged as much as 
possible by actual trips into the field and by attracting birds to 
the home and the school. 


Each of the 48 states and the district of Columbia now has 
designated some native bird as its State Bird. The list follows: 


Cactus Wren 
California Valley Quail 
Lark Bunting 

Blue Hen Chicken 


District of Columbia 




















New Hampshire 
New Jersey 
New Mexico 
New York 
North Carolina 
North Dakota 




Rhode Island 

South Carolina 

South Dakota 







West Virginia 

Wood Thrush 


Brown Thrasher 

Mountain Bluebird 




Western Meadowlark 


Brown Pelican 

Black-capped Chickadee 

Baltimore Oriole 

Black-capped Chickadee 





Western Meadowlark 
Western Meadowlark 
Mountain Bluebird 
Purple Finch 
Road Runner 

Western Meadowlark 



Western Meadowlark 


Ruffed Grouse 


Ring-necked Pheasant 



California Gull 

Hermit Thrush 


Willow Goldfinch 
Tufted Titmouse 


Wisconsin Robin 

Wyoming Western Meadowlark 

United States of America Bald Eagle 


1. Structure of a bird: Secure a chicken or some other dead 
bird. Identify the parts indicated by the diagram on page 49. 

Examine the different kinds of feathers. Split the vane of a flight 
feather apart; do the parts stick together again .f^ Explain, after 
examining under a strong lens or microscope. Hov^ does the 
connection between the barbs make the feather more useful for 
its special purpose .r^ Examine the crop, the gizzard, and some of 
the bones, learning their special adaptations. 

2. Flight habits: Watch the flight of a hawk, a swallow, and 
a meadowlark. Explain the body-structure and food habits that 
are associated with each type of flight. 

3. Nest building: Watch the nest-building activities of some 
birds. What materials are used.f^ How much time is required for 
completion of the nest.f^ 

4. Feeding of the young: Watch some birds feeding their 
young. What sorts of food are brought .^^ How often do the parents 
bring food.^^ Do both parents bring food.^ 

5. Migrating flocks: Observe some migrating flocks of ducks, 
geese, or other birds. Note the kind of formation used, and in 
general the height and speed. Some idea of the speed of birds' 
flight can be obtained by measuring with the speedometer the 
speed of a bird flying parallel to an automobile. 

6. Migration records: Begin a chart showing the records of 
migration in your community. Summer residents should have the 
first date in the spring, the last in the fall; winter birds just the 
opposite; transient visitors should have first and last dates in both 
the spring and the fall. With this activity compile a list of local 
birds, with the seasonal status of each. 

7. Insect damage: Find out what insects cause the most 
damage to crops and orchards in your community. What birds 
are helpful in controlling these insects.f^ 

8. Bird regulations: From the game laws, which may be 
obtained free from the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 
learn what birds can be killed legally, when, and by whom they 

r 60 

may be killed. What citizens of the state are required to have 
licenses to hunt? What are the open season and bag limits? Why 
are such regulations necessary? Consult your local game protector. 

9. Food and cover: Look over the land in your community 
and talk with your neighbors. Does it seem as though there is 
adequate food and cover for quail, songbirds, and others? Are the 
areas of food and cover close enough together to be used? What 

, could be done to improve conditions? 

10. Comparison of habitats: Visit an area v^here there are no 
trees or heavy brush, then another w^hich has a good growth of 
trees and underbrush. In which area are there more birds? Is the 
diflEerence due only to the trees, or are there other causes? 

11. Water supply: Create a water supply near an area where 
there are weeds, brush, and other good food and cover for birds. 
This can be done by building earth dams across small ditches, 
scooping out catch basins for drainage-water, digging out springs 
or seeps, or in other ways. Watch the birds of this area; do they 
use this supply of water? Do other birds come from other areas? 

12. Clean farming: Find a very clean farm in your com- 
munity, where very little vegetation is left around field borders. 
Find another which has many brushy or grassy borders. Which 
farm has more birds? Why? 

13. Bird houses: Make some bird houses as class and indi- 
vidual projects; houses for wrens and bluebirds are the best to 
start with. Directions for construction may be found in several 
bird publications. Set them out some time before the birds arrive. 
Keep English sparrows and starlings out of the bluebird houses. 
How many are occupied? Follow these families through the season. 
Later on, a more ambitious group project would be to build and 
erect a martin house on the school grounds. 

14. Bird baths: Erect a bird bath of some sort, even if it is 
only a shallow pan of water on a stump or other solid base. (Make 
it impossible for cats to reach the bath, and the birds will use it 
more freely.) Keep it out all year; birds need water in the winter 
as well as in warmer weather. Fiow many birds use the bath? 

15. Feeding stations: Make a feeding shelf or table outside 
your home or in the school yard. Keep suet and a variety of other 
foods — grains, green food, nuts, and other foods throughout the 
year. How many kinds of birds use the feeder, and what foods 
do they seem to prefer? 


16. Shelters: In some protected place, build a shelter of brush, 
or other native materials. This is especially useful to birds in the 
winter, so complete it before Christmas and visit it regularly, 
keeping food on hand. What birds use it? 

17. Supplementary food: Where there is good brushy cover 
but apparently little food, sov^ lespedeza or plant some sorghum. 
Are there more birds after both food and cover are available close 
together than there w^ere before .r* 

18. Predatory animals: Report to the class whenever a cat, 
snake, hawk, or other predator has been seen to catch a bird. 
Report also when these predators catch other animals, such as 
grasshoppers or small rodents. 

19. Local list: Using a check-list of North Carolina birds, 
compile a list of local birds (see also Activity 6) . Many birds 
will be absent from your local list; when is this so.^^ 

20. Stalking birds: Practice approaching birds until you can 
come close enough for detailed observation. What birds seem easiest 
to approach 

21. Use of field glasses: If you can get a pair of binoculars or 
opera glasses, or even a small telescope, practice focusing until you 
can get a clear view of a bird, stationary and in flight. 

22. Abundance of birds: Which birds in your community are 
most abundant and which are most uncommon .^^ Can you find any 
good reasons for the difference? 

23. Trip list: Count the different kinds of birds seen on. the 
way to school, on a class trip, or during a day in the field. At 
what time of day, and at what season of the year do you find the 

24. Songs and calls: Listen to the songs and calls of a few 
familiar birds until you can associate each bird with the characteristic 
sounds which it makes. Try to describe these sounds to others; do 
not necessarily try to imitate them, though you can easily imitate 

25. Collection of pictures, etc.: Start a collection of pictures, 
clippings, and other interesting material about birds. 

26. Types of habitat: Visit each of the following and record 
the kinds of birds found: Open fields, woodland borders, timber 
and brushy land, weedy and brushy fencerows, swamps or marshes. 


Research is a most important phase of a stream management program, as conditions must 
be studied in order to learn what corrections are necessary. 

Only clear pure 
waters will pro- 
duce trout like 
these. Unpolluted 
waters are vital 
to wildlife. 

A fine eastern North Carolina bluegill. 




Most of the streams of North America originally teemed with 
fishes of many kinds. This was before the white men came with 
plow and axe and fire to transform a wilderness into an industrial 
and agricultural commonwealth. To the pioneers who established 
each new western frontier, such words as erosion and pollution 
were foreign or unknown. As the human population increased, 
forests were cleared, land was brought under cultivation, and 
swamps were drained. Cities sprang up along the larger streams, 
depositing sewage and industrial wastes into the once pure water. 
Mine drainage added to the pollution. The water table gradually 
sank, drying wells and impairing the regularity of stream flow. 
Silt from the eroded land accumulated in stream channels, reducing 
the water-carrying capacity and creating conditions unfavorable to 
the better fishes. On the whole, these factors have had far more 
influence than the activities of fishermen in depleting the supply 


of fish, even though it is understood that excessive fishing may 
destroy the breeding reserve when environmental conditions are 

One of the basic problems in the conservation of fish is essentially 
the same as that involved in the conservation and restoration of all 
other vi'ildlife — improvement of the habitat. The only way to con- 
serve permanently the fish population of any body of w^ater is to 
maintain conditions favorable to growth and reproduction. The 
method may be to increase plant growth and food supply in and 
along the water; it may be to reduce pollution; it may be to set 
aside protected areas for the spawning and feeding of young fish; 
it may require the restriction of fishing. Every broad program of 
fish conservation and management involves the use of many prac- 
tices to the end that our waters may remain clean, sightly, and 

Three essentials for fresh-water fishes, as for upland wildlife, are 
food, cover, and water. The food of young fishes consists of water 
insects, crustaceans, other small animals, and, to a limited extent, 
aquatic plants. Adult fish of most species are predatory, feeding 
mainly upon small fish; this fact adds to the complexity of the 
problem. To meet the requirements of a satisfactory fish habitat, a 
body of water must support an adequate growth of organisms 
which furnish food and cover to large numbers of young fish; also 
it must have sufficient volume of water and stability of water level 
to provide a permanent source of food and cover for forage fish as 
well as for game fish of breeding age. 

Probably no other form of wildlife is so utterly dependent upon 
a balanced environment — a harmonious relationship between soil, 
land, plants, and stream life. Fish, like other animals, are affected 
by crowding and the limitations of their surroundings. Under no 
circumstances will a breeding stock long exceed the carrying 
capacity of a body of water. The practice of harvesting a crop of 
surplus fish for human use is biologically sound. The problem is 
to find out how large the surplus is and to make the water area 
produce a reasonable crop each year. 

^'''^Tliis booklet is intended to provide basic material for the study 
of some elementary principles in the conservation of fish. It is not 
a source of technical material. 

The descriptions of many of the species of fish found in North 
Carolina streams have been omitted because this information was 


published in 1947 under the title "Important Food and Game Fishes 
of North Carolina" and copies are available for distribution by the 
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Another bulletin 
giving more detail on the management of farm ponds, and which 
is distributed by the Commission, is "Management of Farm Fish 
Ponds", Bulletin No. 254, published by the Agriculture Experi- 
ment Station, Auburn, Alabama. 


The first objective in the conservation and restoration of fish is 
the improvement of their surroundings. Like all other animals and 
plants, fish are limited in numbers by the carrying capacity of the 
environment in which they live. A body of water will support 
just so many pounds of fish, regardless of their size, and no amount 
of restocking can permanently increase the fish population beyond 
the capacity of the pond or stream to provide food, cover, reason- 
ably clean and unpolluted water, and places for depositing, fer- 
tilizing, and hatching the eggs. If these favorable conditions and 
suitable temperatures prevail, if the water level is kept fairly con- 
stant throughout the year, and if the annual catch does not exceed 
the available surplus, the stream or pond will maintain a stable 
fish population. 

1. Prevention of silting is a basic step in stream improvement. 

a. Soil erosion is the most widespread source of damage to 
our streams. The silt which is carried into the streams by each 
rain keeps the water muddy, a condition unfavorable to most 
fish. Also it reduces the depth to which sunlight penetrates the 
water. Thus soil erosion limits plant growth and interferes with 
the regularity of stream flow. 

b. The soil which finds its way into a stream comes either 
from the immediate vicinity or from . cultivated land on the 
watershed some distance away. The latter causes the greater 

c. The control of erosion from the immediate watershed is 
largely a matter of establishing and maintaining a protective 
cover of grass and trees. If a new lake or pond is to be created 
by damming a stream, the vegetation on the watershed should 
be established before (or at least very soon after) the dam is 
built. If the watershed of a stream is to be used for pasture, the 


number of livestock on the area should be restricted so that over- 
grazing vv^ill not increase erosion; all soil conservation practices 
on the land serve to protect the stream. 

d. The control of erosion on cultivated areas located many 
miles from a stream is a more difficult problem that can be 
dealt v^^ith only through the cooperation of landov^ners, soil 
conservation agencies, and other conservationists. 

e. A pond or lake can be partly protected against silting 
by means of a silt dam, desilting pond, stake checks, board 
checks, or v^ire checks at the point w^here the water is received 
from the source stream. 

2. Maintenance of regular flow is a second major problem in 
stream management. 

a. If a stream is to provide a suitable habitat for fish, it 
must have an adequate flow throughout the year. Some streams 
have dry beds in periods of low rainfall and many fish perish. 
Some shallow streams freeze dry in the winter, with consequent 
loss of fish. 

b. Floods are destructive. Eggs and larvae of fish and other 
aquatic animals may be covered by silt or washed away. Adult 
fish may be carried outside the main channel and left to die 
when the water recedes. The accumulation of silt and undesirable 
debris may make stream conditions so unfavorable that the fish 
perish or leave. Stream conditions may be unfavorable to the 
growth of aquatic plants and animals used as food by the fish. 

c. Regularity of stream flow depends upon a constant and 
reliable source of water. Spring-fed streams have the most nearly 
constant flow, but most streams in North Carolina are not fed 
by large springs. Streams flowing through well-established wood- 
lands flow more evenly than streams with denuded watersheds. 
This fact indicates a definite relation between reforestation and 
stream improvement. In some streams flood-control dams make 
possible the storage of storm waters and their subsequent release 
during dry periods. It is important to understand, however, that 
dams built at certain points on a stream may be detrimental to 
other parts of the stream and may seriously interfere with the 
migration and spawning of fish. All streams should be managed 
on a multiple-use basis, and dams should be constructed only 
after careful study and investigation have shown that their con- 
struction is sound from the standpoint of the whole stream and 


all the uses of the land drained by it. When dams are needed, 
adequate provision should be made at the time of planning and 
construction for fish and other resources of the stream. 

3. The maintenance of plant life in streams is an important 
factor in stream improvement. 

a. Plant grow^th is closely associated w^ith regularity of 
stream flow. Plants must have time to become established in 
the w^ater and along the shore, and this condition is impossible 
w^here the w^ater level rises and falls frequently. 

b. The encouragement of plant grov^th may require plant- 
ing, transplanting, or other methods of introducing aquatic 
plants in and along streams, lakes, and ponds. Know^ledge of 
the food habits of fish, insects, and other aquatic animals, as well 
as knowledge of the requirements of aquatic plants, is essential 
to stream improvement. 

c. In lakes, green plants help to maintain favorable chem- 
ical conditions in the water. They take up some of the carbon 
dioxide given oflf by the animals and by decaying organic matter. 
In turn, they release oxygen which helps to maintain a chemical 
balance in the water, since it is used by the animals and fish. 

4. A problem in maintaining a favorable balance between plants 
and animals is the provision of food, cover and water. 

a. Food and cover are two of the most important factors 
in fish production. 

b. The maintenance of food and cover is sometimes a 
difficult problem in large, newly-constructed lakes. This problem 
is especially evident in deep hydro-electric and flood-control 
reservoirs where there is wide fluctuation of the water level. 

c. Plankton, composed of the tiny floating plants and 
animals, is the principal source of food for minnows and all 
young fish. Plankton also provides food for the smaller aquatic 
animals and forage fish which, in turn, are eaten by the larger 

d. In extreme cases, when the natural food supply is in- 
adequate, supplementary food must be provided. Supplementary 
feeding is feasible, however, only in small areas and for short 

e. Protective cover is as necessary to fish as to land animals. 
In the water it takes the form of plants, rocks, submerged logs, 


etc. Artificial shelters, such as brushpiles and logs, are sometimes 
needed in new lakes and ponds. 


Pollution is a major problem in the conservation of stream life 
in many North Carolina streams. It is not only a menace to public 
health; it also has other unwholesome effects. Three principal 
sources of pollution exist under North Carolina conditions: 

1. Sewage is dumped into important streams or their tributaries 
by many cities and towns. Unfortunately, a great deal of sewage 
receives no chemical treatment before it is released into the streams. 
Whenever any kind of organic matter is broken down chemically 
by the bacteria in the water, the process uses up oxygen. In 
polluted waters or those choked with debris, fish are likely to die 
from lack of oxygen or be poisoned by the sewage itself. 

2. Industrial and other chemical wastes exert greatest influence 
in the waters just below large cities. Even the small garage which 
dumps its waste oil into the local creek pollutes that stream and 
eventually the larger ones. Sawdust in the streams is chemically 
and mechanically injurious to fish. 

3. Silt and debris carried into the streams by runoflf water is 
the most serious general source of pollution everywhere in the state. 


\. The digging of drainage ditches in agricultural lowlands 
has increased the volume and speed of the water which flows into 
the larger channels. As a result, some streams become too unstable 
to be satisfactory habitats. 

2. Drainage of marshes, lakes, and ponds to reclaim land for 
agricultural use has destroyed nearly all of the aquatic life of some 
regions. This loss has been offset by the construction of new lakes, 
ponds, and reservoirs in recent years, but only to a small extent. 


1. Improvement of habitat must precede, or at least accompany, 
restocking. The releasing of fish into water areas that do not meet 
these biological needs cannot pernianently increase the annual catch 
unless this expensive practice is followed each year. 

70 ■ 

2. Restocking of some streams and the stocking of new ponds 
and lakes, however, is an important means of conservation. Local 
people are beginning to aid the state in this undertaking. 

3. Many mountain streams are being stocked with rainbow, 
brook, and brown trout. 

4. Under proper stream management, the increase of fish 
population should be expected to keep pace with the progress of 
stream improvement, even without annual restocking. 


1. As previously stated, the number of pounds of fish which can 
survive throughout the year in a given body of water is limited by 
natural conditions — food, cover, and the quantity and quality of 
water. This number represents the carrying capacity of the stream, 
lake, or pond. 

2. The available crop of fish is the amount that can be taken 
without decreasing the brood stock. 

3. If this crop is not taken and used by man, it will be destroyed 
by Nature because it cannot all survive. A reasonable amount of 
fishing, therefore, is a biologically sound practice in productive 

4. It is essential, however, that the combined kill bv man and 
Nature shall not decimate the breeding stock. The code of fishing 
regulations enacted by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources 
Commission is intended to give adequate protection to the breed- 
ing reserve of each species. 


Each year, at least 1,000 new fish ponds are built in North 
Carolina. These ponds serve several important purposes. They 
provide the owners and their guests a place to fish, swim, and 
enjoy the numerous types of wildlife which frequent a pond. Fish- 
ing appeals to all persons, young and old alike, the wealthy and the 

To be successful, the pond should be properly constructed, with 
provision for drainage, have ample spillway for flood water, and a 
minimum of water under two feet in depth. Just enough water to 
keep the pond full is an ample water supply. Too much water 


makes fertilization impractical, and a large watershed increases 
danger of flooding. 

Warm-water fish ponds are stocked at the rate of 1,000 bluegill 
fingerlings and 100 largemouth bass fingerlings an acre. It is unwise 
to get a stock for a new pond from a stream or even another pond 
where a number of undesirable species may be taken along with 
the bass and bluegills desired. Fish may be obtained from the 
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service or from the North Carolina Wild- 
life Resources Commission. A properly constructed, stocked, and 
managed pond may, under average conditions, be expected to 
produce one hundred fifty to three hundred pounds of fish an acre 
each year after the fish reach a size suitable for use. 

The productivity of a pond can be increased by adding com- 
mercial fertilizer such as 6-8-6, at the rate of several hundred 
pounds an acre a year. The fertilizer stimulates the growth of 
micro-organisms which are fed upon by small fish, and these in 
turn are eaten by larger fish. 

Frequently too many fish occur in a pond. Either the food supply 
must be increased to meet the needs of the fish present, or the 
numbers must be reduced. Fishing helps to keep a pond in balance, 
and should be started as soon as the fish stocked have spawned 
and are large enough to take. 



|/ 1. In North Carolina fresh-water fish are more important for 
recreation than for commercial use. Many more people fish than 
hunt. In 1948, North Carolina issued 146,938 fishing permits of 
all kinds and 53,904 combined hunting and fishing permits. The 
relative popularity of fishing as a sport is indicated by the fact that 
many more fishing permits than hunting permits were issued. 

2. The recreational value of fishing cannot be accurately 
measured in terms of cash, though in some communities the 
recreation provided by the streams is a major source of income. 
Good fishing influences many occupations. The improvement of 
water areas for recreation is usually followed by the development 
of resorts, hotels, camps, restaurants, sportings goods stores, and 
filling stations. Thus many occupations — indeed, entire com- 


munities in some places depend upon the maintenance of fishing. 

3. The full development of the recreational facilities of North 
Carolina is an objective closely related to the problems of con- 
serving fish, other wildlife, and v^ater. 

4. Virtually all of the rivers and lakes and streams in North 
Carolina have game fish, and these w^aters attract many thousands 
of people annually. 



The foUov^ing diagram show^s the principal parts of a fish. It 
should be studied very carefully: 



Diagram of a largemouth black bass showing the principal external areas 
and parts. The largemouth black bass is a widely distributed and popular 
North Carolina game fish. 

1. The body of a fish has three divisions: head, trunk, and tail. 

2. A fish is one of Nature's best examples of a streamlined 

a. The body gradually enlarges from head to trunk and 
tapers from trunk to tail. 


b. The shape of the fish enables it to move through the 
water with very little resistance. 

3. Scales form the external covering of most fishes, though 
some species (catfishes, for example) have none. 

a. Scales overlap each other like shingles on a roof. 

b. A young fish may or may not have scales when it first 
hatches from the egg. 

c. Scales begin to appear, however, before the fish is very 
old. The striped bass develops scales when it is only about half 
an inch long, the salmons and trouts have scales after reaching 
a length of one or two inches. 

d. The number of scales on a fish remains practically con- 
stant throughout its life. As the body grows each scale is en- 
larged in proportion. 

e. The larger portion of a typical scale is embedded in the 
underskin or dermis; the smaller, flattened portion projects over 
the surface. 

f. The growth rings on a scale indicate the age of the fish, 
much as the annual rings indicate the age of a tree. A fish 
ordinarily grows most rapidly in summer, when the water is 
warm and food is abundant. During this period, therefore, the 
scales grow most rapidly to keep the body covered, and the rings 
on each scale are farther apart than in winter when growth is 
slower. Experienced workers can often calculate with some 
accuracy the former length of a fish at any given age, the age 
being indicated by the number of year marks on the scales. 
Alternating slow and rapid growth is characteristic of fish and 
other "cold-blooded" animals — i.e., those whose body temperature 
remains almost the same as that of their surroundings. 

4. The skin of a fish is made up also of sensitive living tissue 
and bony scales. 

a. In a typical fish there is no outer layer of dead, dry tissue 
as there is in the human skin. Skin cells, like other living cells, 
must be kept moist. Since fishes live in the water, it is not 
necessary for the living part of the skin to be covered by dead 
and hardened material. 

b. The skin of a fish is covered by a layer of mucus or slime 
which is produced by the living cells. This slime serves as a 
lubricant, helping the fish to move through the water easily and 
permitting the scales to slide over one another. The slime also 


protects the fish from the action of bacteria, fungi, and other 
skin parasites. Removal of the sUme from large areas of the body 
may eventually kill the fish. For this reason, fish which are to 
be returned to the water should be handled gently with wet 

5. A typical fish has five kinds of fins. 

a. The paired pectoral fins are usually located just behind 
the gills near the junction of the head and trunk. They corres- 
pond to the arms of the human body. 

b. The paired pelvic fins are usually on the lower side of 
the body, often almost directly below the pectorals. They corres- 
pond to the legs of the human body. 

c. The dorsal fin is situated along the middle of the back. 
Sometimes there are two or more in a row. 

d. The ventral fin is on the lower side of the body behind 
the anus or vent. The ventral and pelvic fins often serve as brakes. 

e. The caudal or tail fin is the one most used in swimming. 

f . Fins also help the fish to maintain its balance in the water. 

6. Gills enable a fish to breathe oxygen in the water. It does 
not use the oxygen which is part of the water itself (M^O) , but 
only that which is dissolved in the water. A fish would suflFocate 
in boiled or distilled water. 

a. The gills are made up of many fleshy rods containing 
tiny blood vessels arranged on bony arches. Most fishes have 
four pairs of these arches. 

b. There are slits through which the water passes between 
the gill arches. 

c. The blood vessels give the gills a red color and this may 
be taken as an indication of freshness. 

d. As a fish swims, it gulps water into its mouth. The 
water is forced backward past the gills which absorb the oxygen 
and get rid of waste gas (carbon dioxide) . ' 

e. The gill rakers (projections on the arches) frequently 
form a network which collects insects, pieces of water plants, 
and other material that may clog the gills or that may be passed 
down the gullet as food. 

f. The gills of every fresh-water fish are protected on the 
outside by a bony plate called the gill cover (operculum) . 

7. The eyes of the fish differ in structure from those of land 


a. A fish has no eyelids, though most land animals have 
lids which exclude dirt, and keep the eyeballs moist. 

b. The iris (colored part) of the fish's eye is almost im- 
movable and in the dim light under water does little to regulate 
the amount of light which enters the eye. In most other animals 
the regulating is done by changing the size of the opening 
(pupil) , just as in a camera. 

c. The lens of a fish's eye is spherical; the human eye has 
a more flattened lens. 

d. Since a fish moves its eyes very little, and since they 
are located on the sides of the head, it has better lateral than 
forward vision. Its eyes look in almost opposite directions, while 
our eyes face in the same direction. 


1. The specific gravity of the fish's body is almost the same as 
that of water. 

a. A 20-pound fish may need to use only enough energy 
to support about one pound of weight, the other 19 pounds 
being supported by the water. 

b. Because a fish needs very little energy for support and 
is held back so little by friction, it can move swiftly and easily. 

2. The bony framework of a fish is extremely light. 

a. The principal group of muscles is a series of W-shaped 
segments fitted together along the entire length of the body on 
each side. It is this mass of flesh which is most commonly eaten. 

b. Each muscle in contracting acts only on the region 
immediately surrounding it. Acting together, however, the 
muscles can change the shape or direction of the body. 

c. A fish moves by alternately contracting and relaxing the 
muscles on the sides, thereby making the tail a propeller. 

d. Each fin has its own set of muscles. 

e. A fish has no muscles of the face except those which 
move the jaws. 

f. A fish can move forward or backward, straight up or 
straight down, or it can remain stationary by using the fins to 
offset the effects of water currents and gravity. 

g. Experiments have shown that a fish can swim without 
fins, but under these conditions its action is clumsy. The fins are 
needed to perform delicate, swift, or well-directed movements. 


4. The maintenance of equilibrium (balance) depends upon 
structures in the head. 

a. A fish has no outer ear or middle ear as man has. 

b. In the inner ear sound waves set up are transformed into 
nerve impulses to the brain. Here also is the balancing machinery 
of the body, as in the human body. 

c. Sounds under w^ater can be heard by fish better than 
noises above the surface. Different species respond to different 
sounds, how^ever. Trout may not react as quickly to the sound 
of a gun fired over the v^ater as to the vibrations caused by foot- 
steps along the bank. Bass are said to notice the approach of a 
rovv^boat more readily than that of a motorboat. Experiments 
have show^n that catfish can hear the sound of a w^histle blovi^n 
in the air. 

d. The lateral line usually extends from the opening of the 
gills along the side to the tail. It contains sense organs by means 
of w^hich a fish detects vibrations of very low frequency — as low 
as 6 vibrations a second sometimes. (To human ears such a sound 
would be only a dull rattle.) The lateral line is also believed to 
have an important use in adapting the fish to extreme changes 
of water temperature. 

5. Color is an adaptation which has protective value under some 

a. Experiments have shown that some fish placed on a 
dark background become dark; when the same fish are placed on 
a light background they become lighter in color. 

b. The real importance of color change as a protective 
adaptation in most fishes is a disputed question. Different species 
differ widely in their ability to change color. 

c. In general, fish are darker on the upper side and lighter 
on the under side. This color scheme tends to make the fish less 
easily visible from either above or below. 

6. The teeth of most fishes are adapted for holding prey rather 
than for grinding. 

a. Most fishes are mainly carnivorous (flesh eaters) and 
the teeth are sharply pointed. 

b. Some plant-eating species have grinding teeth in the 
throat (pharynx) ; these are called pharyngeal teeth. 



1. Shape of a fish. Examine a living or perserved fish, to see 
hov^ the body is streamUned. Note the gradual increase in size 
from head to trunk, the decrease in size from trunk to tail, v^hether 
the back is arched or flat, and whether the sides are rounded or 

2. Examination of scales. Examine the scales of a fish and 
note hov^^ they overlap, the size and shape of the scales, and their 
texture or hardness. Compare the scales of a young fish v^^ith those 
of a mature fish of the same species, using a magnifying glass to 
see the grow^th rings. 

3. Examination of fins. Identify the five kinds of fins. Examine 
the structure of fins and note their place of attachment to the body. 
Watch a fish swimming in a bowl and study the actions of the 
different fins. 

4. Structure of gills. Examine the bony covering of the gills. 
(If a live fish is used, be careful not to injure it.) Lift the gill 
cover to see the arrangement of the gills. If a dead fish is used, 
put a thin section of a gill under a microscope to study the network 
of small blood vessels. Watch a living fish breathing in the water. 
Place a few drops of coloring matter in the water just in front of 
the mouth of a fish and watch the colored water as it comes out 
through the gills. Account for the common belief that a fish will 
drown if it cannot close its mouth. Is this fact true, and can a fish 
drown? Find the gill rakers; what is their use.f^ 

5. Structure of skeleton. Carefully remove the muscular cover- 
ing of part of a fish and examine the bony framework. Examine 
the vertebrae to see how they are designed to permit the body to 
bend. Examine the skull. How does the thickness of the skull 
compare with that of the other bones? 

6. Arrangement of muscles. Remove the skin from a part of 
the side of a fish. Separate the layers of muscles and find the 
W-shaped segments. How do these muscles operate? 

7. Mouth parts of a fish. Open the jaws of a fish; which jaw is 
the longer? Notice the size of the mouth. Examine the teeth; 
notice their size, shape, and the way they are set in the jaws. Does 
the roof of the mouth contain a rough process adapted for crush- 
ing food? 


8. Inventory of local species. Ask people who fish in your 
community what kinds are present and what are most abundant. 

9. Comparative study of local species. Examine as many dif- 
ferent kinds of fish as you can obtain. Compare them as to size, 
body shape, color, fins, and scales. If you cannot secure fish for 
this study, good pictures will be helpful. 

10. Habitat preference of local species. Find out what species 
are found in the rivers, creeks, lakes, or ponds of your community. 
Does the presence of a species in a body of water necessarily in- 
dicate habitat preference.^ 

11. Observation of streams. Look over some streams in your 
community. Do they flow regularly throughout the year.^* If not, 
why} Are their watersheds protected by grass and trees? Do the 
channels show evidence of silting .f^ 

12. Prevention of silting. Construct a barrier across the head 
of a pond to prevent silting. Drive one or several rows of stakes, 
and use boards or hog wire to catch debris and silt. Loose stone dams 
supported by stakes may also be used. 

13. Study of aquatic plants. See how many kinds of water 
plants you can find in and along a stream. In what ways are plants 
helpful to fish and other water animals .^^ 

14. A balanced aquarium. Catch a few minnows and put 
them in a glass bowl or aquarium. Put some algae or other avail- 
able water plants into the water. How do the plants and fish help 
each other What is a balanced aquarium .f^ 

15. Study of food and cover. Visit a stream and look for the 
following kinds of cover: plants in and along the water; rocky 
ledges under the banks; sunken trees, brush, or logs. What water 
animals do you see? Are there minnows in the stream? 

16. Sewage. Find out whether any of the streams in your 
community receive sewage from towns or cities. Inquire whether 
the sewage receives any chemical treatment before it is emptied 
into the stream. Has the fish population of the stream been affected 
by pollution? 

17. Industrial wastes. If you live in or near a city situated on 
a stream, learn whether packing houses, gara'ges, or other establish- 
ments discharge industrial waste into the water. 

18. Debris from farm land. Look for trash, silt, or other 
debris which has washed into a stream from adjacent farm land. 
How could this be prevented? 


19. Drainage. If there have been any drainage projects in 
your community, has the drainage affected fishing? f-^ow? Why? 

20. Inventory of new ponds and lakes. Have nevi^ ponds or 
lakes been created in your community within the last five years? 
Have any of these been stocked with fish? What have been the 
results? Explain. 

21. Inquiry about depleted streams. Inquire if fish were once 
present in streams which do not now contain fish. If so, why did 
the fish disappear? 

22. Visit to a hatchery. Visit a fish hatchery and note: source 
of the water supply, methods of hatching and rearing the young, 
species of fish reared, and special equipment used. For what pur- 
pose are the fish being reared? 

23. Methods of harvesting the fish crop. Secure as much in- 
formation as possible concerning the methods used to catch fish in 
your community. Do any of the streams or lakes attract tourists 
and non-resident fishermen? 

24. North Carolina Fishing Regulations. Secure a copy of 
the North Carolina fishing regulations from the North Carolina 
Wildlife Resources Commission and learn the legal dates for 
catching the game fish of the state. What other regulations govern 
the catching of the fish? What is the purpose of legal control 
of fishing? 




Protect North Carolina